Many people live in subdivisions with storm water ponds, which collect water from the neighborhood and help keep pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste from getting into the broader environment. Now, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF | IFAS) researchers and Extension faculty have devised strategies to help homeowners limit their pollution contribution.
Before they crafted the strategies, outlined in a new Extension document, “Strategies to Encourage Adoption of Storm Water Pond Best Management Practices (BMPs) by Homeowners,” UF/IFAS research and Extension faculty surveyed a large planned community in Manatee County, Florida. Among other things, they found that nearly half the homeowners either didn’t know what storm water runoff was or did not know where storm water runoff goes.
Paul Monaghan, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication and a co-author of the document, said the survey result is fairly typical of homeowners across Florida and elsewhere. “They see the curb and gutter, and they think the water is going to be treated at a plant,” Monaghan said. “They don’t really know their water runs off into the storm water pond. It’s all accumulating. It matters what you do and what your neighbors do. If we can get homeowners to understand that and know it has an effect, we will be taking a step in the right direction.”
Many planned communities in Florida have man-made ponds. Some residents call them lakes. Many people buy homes adjacent to these so-called “lakes” because the property values are higher. But these ponds are designed to collect, store and treat storm water. Pollution in the form of nutrients get to the storm water ponds by falling off of rooftops and car tops and into streets and going into drains that eventually empty into the ponds. But other sources of pollution such as lawn fertilizer get into the ground and leach into ponds.
If too many nutrients get into these ponds, problems arise in the form of algal blooms, fish kills and adverse effects on wildlife, according to the paper. Polluted storm water runoff can also lead to increased maintenance costs and lower property values.
Strategies to avoid high pollution in storm water ponds include:
- First, educate homeowners about the function of a storm water pond.
- Use best management practices (BMPs) to keep grass clippings in your yard, sweep them off of sidewalks and driveways and out of streets and gutters.
- Scoop pet waste and put it in the trash.
- Make sure contractors are licensed and certified green industry professionals.
- Extension professionals should help homeowners adopt a low-maintenance shoreline and aquatic plants for ponds.
UF/IFAS Extension and research faculty are currently conducting a follow-up survey in the same Manatee County development in to see if their suggestions to avoid storm water pollution yielded any positive results.