Stormwater Runoff

Summer marks the beginning of Florida’s rainy season, which means lots of water could be running through your landscape. While it’s great for most plants, the rainwater running off your landscape is not so great.

Water that isn’t absorbed into the landscape flows down streets, sidewalks, and driveways and ends up going down a storm drain. What most people don’t realize is that storm drains don’t lead to water treatment facilities like the wastewater from homes does. Storm drains divert water to a stormwater basin or empty directly into the closest body of water. This means that all the grass clippings, fertilizer, oil, and anything else that is captured in the stormwater runoff ends up back in the environment without being treated.

water with oil flowing into storm drain
Pollutants like oil get washed into storm drains along with rainwater.

Reducing water pollutants

You can reduce the pollution in stormwater runoff by carefully using the appropriate amount of fertilizer and pesticides, sweeping up grass clippings and debris from hard surfaces, and never dispose of anything into a storm drain.

Reducing Stormwater Runoff

Beyond reducing pollutants that might end up in runoff, you can also reduce the amount of stormwater that leaves your property. Avoid impervious surfaces and use materials like gravel, mulch, or pavers as pervious options for driveways, sidewalks, and patios.

A rain barrel or cistern is a great way to capture rain that falls off your roof. Rain barrels help you cut down on the amount of water running through your landscape and onto impermeable surfaces. They also give you a free source of water for irrigating your plants. Redirect downspouts so that water is guided to the lawn or plant beds where it can be absorbed.

The plants you choose can also help keep water and pollutants out of the storm drains. Densely growing turfgrasses and groundcovers will help capture rainwater, while also filtering out pollutants and reducing erosion.

rain garden
This rain garden in front of the Southwest Rec Center on the University of Florida campus is designed to capture runoff from the center’s sidewalks and paved entrances.

Rain gardens are another easy way to use your landscape plants to return water to the soil, reduce erosion, and help prevent stormwater runoff.

You can build a rain garden in a low section of your landscape or at the bottom of a downspout. Choose plants that like to get their feet wet, but can tolerate dry conditions as well.

Rain gardens work by collecting rainwater and filtering out impurities before the water returns to the aquifer.

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