Summer storms mean runoff, but you can help reduce its negative impacts
Editorial by Don Rainey, regional water agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Southwest District.
During seasonal storms in Florida, rain strikes surfaces such as rooftops, sidewalks and driveways, and within minutes, water will form puddles — and along comes stormwater runoff. At its core, stormwater is simply excess rainfall that does not infiltrate the ground or immediately evaporate back into the atmosphere.
Stormwater runoff uses the path of least resistance to reach its destination. It is a collection of rainfall from the surrounding hard surfaces, lawn and plant beds that flows above ground to a nearby body of water. Stormwater runoff is not just water. It transports nutrients from rainwater, sediment, and other materials found in the urban landscape.
As the runoff moves across saturated surfaces, it transports dissolved plant nutrients, possible pesticides, pet waste, sediment and other debris. Think of stormwater runoff as a soup, consisting of “ingredients” such as dissolved particulates and sometimes harmful pathogens that will move to a body of water. When concentration levels within this mixture exceed the ability for natural systems — such as ponds and wetlands — to utilize, absorb or break down pollutants, we must take steps to address the issue.
In some areas of Florida, stormwater runoff flows directly into a large body of water without treatment, immediately affecting the water quality. Untreated stormwater can negatively impact natural ecosystems for future generations.
Fortunately, a plant-based lawn and landscape not only help filter contaminants and remove sediment, they also provide an infiltration area to recharge the water supply.
As a homeowner, you can protect water quality by addressing runoff from your property. Simply start with your roof and driveway — usually the largest connected hard surface and runoff generator on your property. Redirect your downspouts to a rain bar