A clean and abundant water supply is vital to the quality of life we enjoy here in the Sunshine State. Fortunately, rainfall is a common occurrence, but the resulting stormwater runoff could be harmful to the water resource.
Stormwater runoff is simply the water that flows down the street, or across the yard, or into the storm sewer following a rain shower. There is an inseparable relationship between land use and stormwater management. When streets or parking lots are paved, an impervious surface is created -rain cannot soak into the ground. This also causes peak discharge rates to increase, meaning it takes longer for stormwater to dissipate and the chance of local flooding problems increase.
Stormwater is also a significant source of pollution. Just look around at the litter and debris as you drive along the streets. When it rains, this debris, along with the oils and fluids on the road, is washed into the stormwater system. As the runoff flows through pipes, culverts, ditches and swales, it carries this pollution with it, which eventually discharges into Boca Ciega Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. Stormwater runoff causes the following problems:
- Sediment build-up in water bodies
- It carries nitrogen and phosphorous into water bodies. These substances can cause the conditions that lead to fish kills and algae blooms, as well as increasing undesirable aquatic plants
- 80-95 percent of heavy metals in our waterways come from stormwater. Rubber from tires, asbestos from brakes, hydraulic fluid, gasoline, oil and grease, as well as lead, zinc, copper, chromium and other metals. All flow off the streets and parking lots into our waterways
- It costs money. Pollutants in stormwater can increase water treatment costs. Fish kills and algae blooms can close swimming and beach areas, and other recreational areas. This can result in lower property values for homes. Stormwater also decreases the productivity of fisheries and shellfish areas.
In Redington Beach, we are concerned not only with the water quality issues of stormwater, but we are also concerned with issues of stormwater drainage or flood protection.
Let's look at Redington Beach and some of the methods used to manage stormwater.
Swales: These shallow ditches need to be planted or vegetated to prevent erosion and provide filtration of stormwater. Swales are intended primarily to improve water quality.
Stormwater sewers: Underground pipes are used to collect and move large quantities of stormwater to help reduce local flooding. The stormwater eventually flows into the Gulf or bay. Storm sewers are not intended to improve the quality of stormwater.
Historically, Florida was developed with a "ditch it and drain it” philosophy. Consequently most existing stormwater systems were built for flood protection only, which is why the term "drainage system" is still prevalent.
One of the greatest challenges we have in reducing stormwater pollution is working with the Town's existing stormwater system. Major modifications to the existing system would not be easy, quick or inexpensive.
However, there are things we all can do to help reduce stormwater pollution. The Town asks all residents to observe the following:
- Keep your swale vegetated. This prevents erosion, traps sediment and provides filtration for stormwater. Keep the vegetation trimmed. An over-grown swale increases the likelihood of local flooding.
- Do not sweep or blow leaves, grass clippings or other debris into swales, gutters, stormwater drains or the street, since these materials would then be washed into the bay or Gulf when it rains. Instead, bag them for garbage pickup or start a compost pile.
- Direct downspouts from roof gutters onto grassy areas instead of paved areas.
- If you wash your vehicle, wash it on the grass instead the driveway or street. By doing this, the water helps irrigate your lawn and the dirt from your vehicle isn't washed into the bay.
- If you have exposed soil on a construction site or earth storage area, use silt fences or hay bales to prevent rain from washing the soil away.
- Properly maintain your vehicles. Leaking oil, gas or grease is not only a hazard to you, but it also drips onto the street and driveway, where rain will wash it into the Gulf or bay.
- Fertilize and spray your lawn carefully and sparingly. Do not fertilize when storms are forecasted. Use "slow release” fertilizers; they are more likely to be used by plants and less likely to leach out or wash away.