Tampa Bay Times

A com­mu­nity ap­proach to pro­tect wa­ter qual­ity

- Don Rainey is a re­gional spe­cial­ized wa­ter re­sources agent with the UF/IFAS Ex­ten­sion South­west District of Florida. To con­tact him, email drainey@ufl.edu. BY DON RAINEY Gardening · Water Security · Ecology · Hobbies · Social Issues · Society · Landscaping

Florida’s fresh­wa­ter is nat­u­rally sus­cep­ti­ble to con­tam­i­na­tion, largely be­cause of its unique sandy soils and in­ter­con­nected sur­face and ground­wa­ter sys­tems. As Florid­i­ans, we rely on sur­face and ground­wa­ter sys­tems such as lakes, wet­lands, aquifers and ur­ban green spa­ces to pro­tect and fos­ter re­new­able re­sources. For ex­am­ple, wet­lands can im­mo­bi­lize nu­tri­ents and heavy met­als, thereby help­ing to re­store fresh­wa­ter sup­plies. Home­own­ers who take a com­mu­nity-level ap­proach to sus­tain these sys­tems can make a dif­fer­ence.

HOAs and neigh­bor­hood res­i­dents can eval­u­ate them­selves to ad­dress re­ported sources of nu­tri­ents and pathogens af­fect­ing wa­ter qual­ity in their wa­ter­shed (How’s My Wa­ter­way). A score­card eval­u­a­tion con­sist­ing of UF/IFAS Ex­ten­sion rec­om­men­da­tions can help res­i­dents iden­tify and re­solve ex­ist­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues based on their land­scape de­sign, plant se­lec­tion, soil type, ir­ri­ga­tion and main­te­nance prac­tices.

Why re-eval­u­ate an ex­ist­ing land­scape? The dis­con­nect be­tween ur­ban land­scape de­sign, plant se­lec­tion, site prepa­ra­tion and rec­om­mended plant in­stal­la­tion and main­te­nance prac­tices poses un­in­tended con­se­quences. Of­ten, in­di­vid­ual ex­pec­ta­tions of the de­signer, builder and home­owner lead to an end­less cy­cle of over-prun­ing, over-ap­pli­ca­tion of chem­i­cals, nu­tri­ents, wa­ter and plant re­place­ment. In the end, it’s es­sen­tial to un­der­stand how these in­ter­re­lated prac­tices may lead to nu­tri­ent loss and poor wa­ter qual­ity.

Af­ter the com­mu­nity eval­u­a­tion, home­own­ers can adopt a host of ben­e­fi­cial strate­gies to seek im­prove­ments. The Flori­daFriendly Land­scap­ing™

(FFL) Nine Prin­ci­ples pro­vide an ex­cel­lent set of guide­lines to fol­low. The first prin­ci­ple, “Right Plant, Right Place,” helps res­i­dents se­lect ap­pro­pri­ate plants and ma­te­ri­als to ren­o­vate the site. An­other strat­egy is to utilize Low-Im­pact De­vel­op­ment/ Green In­fra­struc­ture de­sign tech­niques, such as veg­e­ta­tive swales or rain gar­dens, to man­age and treat stormwa­ter on­site.

Ad­di­tion­ally, FFL prin­ci­ples serve a func­tional pur­pose for neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties to pro­tect wa­ter qual­ity. UF/IFAS re­search sug­gests res­i­den­tial land­scapes can play a pri­mary role in pro­tect­ing wa­ter qual­ity. For ex­am­ple, or­na­men­tal plants and trees pro­vide “rain­fall in­ter­cep­tion” to tem­po­rar­ily dis­place rain­fall and re­duce vol­ume spikes in stormwa­ter runoff.

Eval­u­a­tion ex­am­ple: • Eval­u­ate: Ad­dress nar­row, con­fined side­walks and drive­way plant beds that may con­trib­ute to nu­tri­ent load­ing; for ex­am­ple, nu­tri­ent-rich runoff from fer­til­izer, re­claimed wa­ter ir­ri­ga­tion, soil ero­sion, and sed­i­ment and grass clip­pings that col­lect on hard sur­faces.

• Ren­o­vate: Se­lect plants based on UF/IFAS Ex­ten­sion rec­om­men­da­tions to min­i­mize ap­pli­ca­tions of plant nu­tri­ents, wa­ter­ing re­quire­ments, prun­ing, edg­ing, and as­so­ci­ated or­ganic de­bris waste.

• Com­mu­ni­cate: Reach out to the com­mu­nity and lo­cal stormwa­ter man­ager to re­view the project goals. De­ter­mine and set base­lines to mon­i­tor wa­ter qual­ity ef­fects; for ex­am­ple, down­stream tur­bid­ity and aquatic con­di­tions.

• Demon­strate: Pro­vide a tour to re­in­force the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing nat­u­ral re­sources by ed­u­cat­ing friends and neigh­bors.

So, take a sec­ond look around and eval­u­ate how your com­mu­nity can take ac­tion to pro­tect wa­ter qual­ity and sus­tain nat­u­ral re­sources. If a project proves to be over­whelm­ing, seek help from land­scape pro­fes­sion­als, your county or city stormwa­ter de­part­ment and your lo­cal UF/ IFAS Ex­ten­sion agent. Re­mem­ber, only wa­ter goes down the storm drain. Florida’s wa­ter qual­ity is es­sen­tial to our eco­nomic, so­cial, and en­vi­ron­men­tal way of life.

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 ??  ?? Re­gional Wa­ter Agent for the UF/IFAS Ex­ten­sion South­west District
Re­gional Wa­ter Agent for the UF/IFAS Ex­ten­sion South­west District
 ??  ?? Above: Re­place the nar­row strip of tur­f­grass with an al­ter­na­tive ground­cover or mulch. Left: Re­move mis­placed plant­ings that are wa­ter qual­ity risks.
Above: Re­place the nar­row strip of tur­f­grass with an al­ter­na­tive ground­cover or mulch. Left: Re­move mis­placed plant­ings that are wa­ter qual­ity risks.

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