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Improving Water Quality in Your Neighborhood

When people think of pollution or excess nutrients making their way into surface and groundwater systems, we often imagine industrial plants or large farms as the primary sources. But residents, businesses and visitors also contribute excess nutrients and other pollutants to South Florida's lakes, rivers and wetlands. Individuals and small businesses can reduce pollution in a number of ways: properly maintain local stormwater management systems; use fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides with care; and being aware of how easily household chemicals and other pollutants can be flushed into ground and surface water systems.

DID YOU KNOW? Nationwide, polluted runoff/storm water is considered to be the greatest threat to clean water!

On this website you'll find information about stormwater pollution prevention. You'll find tips on how to best use fertilizers and pesticides and maintain a healthy Florida landscape, home or business. Your actions can help reduce pollution and protect your community and the Everglades.

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Water Quality and YOU
graphic showing rain going from the gutters to the gladesStorm water: Know the Flow
Florida averages 55 - 60 inches of rainfall a year, with about two-thirds of that coming in the wet/rainy season, from June through November. When rain falls, South Florida landscapes are designed to channel excess storm water into communities' stormwater collection systems, into the swales in our driveways or other parts of our local or regional ponds, lakes or canals. Along the way, stormwater runoff can pick up all kinds of pollutants, including fertilizers and pesticides from lawns and yards as well as oils and coolant spilled from roadways and cars. Eventually, that stormwater runoff flows into lakes, rivers and wetlands and makes its way more gradually to the groundwater aquifers that supply our drinking water. more »

photo of lawn debris and algae in the canalPhosphorus: Too Much of a Good Thing
Phosphorus is an essential element for living organisms. In plants, phosphorus stimulates growth. In Florida, phosphorus is an abundant nutrient, mostly contained within sedimentary rock and in Florida's natural soil. However, if it is released in excess, it can become a pollutant. more »

photo of trash by a canalOther Pollutants and Debris
Debris and trash in stormwater drains can interfere with flood prevention as well as decrease water quality. When a stormwater drain gets clogged with debris, rainwater that normally would be collected cannot enter into the drainage system. Water will pond around the drain, causing flooded sidewalks or streets and increasing the chances for flooding buildings. more »

Landscape Maintenance

Managing your landscape effectively can drastically reduce pollutants flowing into surface and groundwater systems. Here are some basic tips to help you reduce pollution: use the right types of soil; select plants that will thrive in your landscape or garden; maintain plants properly — don't over or under water them; use the right kinds of fertilizers and pesticides at the right time. Get more details in the guidelines below.

Cover of WaterWise publicationRight Plants, Right Places
Some plants and grasses are better suited to the subtropical conditions of South Florida than others. If a plant is well-suited to our climate, and is well-placed and well-maintained, you can save time, money (less fertilizer and pesticides needed) and water – and help protect the Everglades – by using them in your landscape! A number of publications and websites offer detailed guidance. more »

hands holding soilSoils: From the Ground Up
Florida soils have varying textures, colors, water-retention capacities and nutrient levels available for plants. It is important to examine and analyze your soil before you start a landscaping project. It is equally important to re-examine it every few years to see if changes have occurred. more »

digging a hole in the gardenDrainage Capacity
In addition to knowing the components of your soil, you should know how well the soil drains water. If you have only sand in your landscape, water will easily drain into the ground. If layers of clay are present, water will not drain into the ground as quickly. It will either run off from the lawn, or keep the soil very wet (saturated). more »

graphic of grass showing one third as the maximum to cut at any one timeLawn Care: Mowing
Cutting your grass properly promotes a healthy landscape. Don't cut it too short, but do cut it regularly and be sure to use sharp blades. Lawn clippings can be an asset in your landscape too. more »

Keep It Clean
photo of fertilizer with 2% phosphorusFertilizer Application: How and When
When you have planted a new yard, with new sod and plants, use fertilizer as advised by the grower. But when sod and plants have been established (usually after a month or two), you can start using low phosphorus fertilizer. How can you tell which fertilizer you should use? Look for the middle number on the bag. It should be 2 or lower. more »

beneficial bugControlling Landscape Pests
A pest, by definition, is any unwanted organism. In garden, landscape or lawn management, certain insects, animals, bacteria, fungi, viruses and weeds may all be considered pests. Some pests are good to have in the garden, because they are part of the composting process and bring nutrients in the soil. Other pests can be destructive, especially when there are too many of them. more »

photo of cigarette butts by a street curbControl Litter
Lawns and gardens may be the most obvious source of excess nutrients and other pollutants, but other daily activities in and outside our homes and businesses can also have an impact. ips to minimize the imapct of litter follow: more »

Around the House
washing dishesUse Water Wisely
We use and need to dispose of a vast quantities of water in and around the house. If your home or business is connected to a central sewer system, wastewater from your shower, toilet, dishes and laundry is sent to a regional wastewater treatment plant. If not, you likely have a septic tank in your yard. more »

large pile of fill dirt at a construction siteBuilding/Remodeling
In Florida, most structures must be elevated to avoid flooding, because Florida is so flat that rainfall can quickly accumulate. Elevated foundations or house pads usually require sand, rock or other materials. Some properties require other types of fill (soil, shell rock, silt) to raise the property's overall elevation. That's why building or remodeling may require a truckload of sand or other fill materials. The temporary result: a small mountain sitting somewhere on your property! more »

photo of car wash bucket on the lawnWashing Cars or Boats
Washing your car in the driveway is a ritual that seems uniquely American. For those who want to keep excess detergents and chemicals out of our waterways, moving that car onto the lawn is the thing to do. Washing and rinsing the average car with a hose and bucket can use hundreds of gallons of water, and if it's done atop a lawn or yard, that water will also help feed the plants in your lawn. more »

Green Business

Businesses such as nurseries, landscape or lawn maintenance companies and builders play an important role in protecting water resources, including natural areas such as the Everglades. By supporting businesses that manage water wisely, you can expand protection of our waterways and natural lands.

photo of landscaper applying fertilizerLandscape Professionals
Many homeowners hire professionals to design our landscapes, to mow and fertilize our lawns or to treat weeds or infestations. We may assume these professionals are doing what's best for the landscape and the environment. That may or may not be true. IIt's important to communicate that you want to maximize water savings or limit the use of chemicals. Ask questions, and let the professionals you hire know what's important to you. more »

shopping at a plant nurseryNurseries
Where do you buy your plants? Does the nursery you use know how to help you to pick the right kinds of plants? What kind of maintenance suggestions have they shared with you? more »

photo of horse and pastureDon't Horse Around
The primary goal of Equine Best Management Practices (BMPs) is to eliminate or limit excess phosphorus, nitrogen and other pollutants which are byproducts of horse and livestock operations from entering canals and waterways. These practices help ensure better water quality for you, your livestock, your neighbors and the Everglades. Equestrian BMPs will also help you maintain better pastures, improve livestock health and increase property value. more »

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