Don’t be left dry! All the best ways to manage your water properly

Conserving water, knowing where stormwater goes is vital

Water (Pexels photo)

A lot of attention in Florida is rightfully paid to the beautiful beaches and oceanfront property that dominate the state’s landscape, but other types of water that affect people’s everyday lives are important, too.

The management of rainwater, water that is used for homes and pool water, is essential for the environment, state economy and residents’ overall health.

So when it comes to water sources and their impact, what else should we know? We asked Tina McIntyre, a Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent and UF/IFAS Extension in Seminole County.

What are the best ways to save water?

Well, 50% to 60% of home water use goes to irrigating the yard -- a number that can be reduced, McIntyre said.

“If residents want to save water, which comes from our underground aquifer that feeds recreational springs, wildlife and agriculture alike, they would be smart to start by looking at their yard,” she said. “The first step is to put the right plant in the right place. Selecting for drought tolerant and Florida-Friendly Landscape (FFL) plants instead of sod like St. Augustine will make your landscape more resilient to weather extremes, beautify the landscape and increase your property value while saving you money on your water bill.”

For more information on your plant options, visit this FFL Guidebook.

What are the differences between sanitary and storm sewers?

“Many people think that the water that goes down the storm drain on the side of the road (gets) treated just like their sanitary sewer lines that pipe out of their home,” McIntyre said. “Unfortunately, that is not the case."

She went on to say that water from our homes goes to a waste-water treatment facility, but everything that goes down the storm drain ultimately flushes into our lakes, rivers and streams.

“When people blow leaves and grass clippings down there, or worse, dump chemicals like fertilizer or gas, all of it ends up in our waterways,” McIntyre said. "This is called non-point source pollution, and can add up in an urban area. The county, state and federal governments spend thousands of dollars each year trying to remove nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous from our waterways. These nutrients come from yard debris, yard fertilizers, pets waste and other sources. This costs a lot in tax dollars and can be very complicated to solve. Additionally, it is important that the storm-drains remain free of debris, trash and materials so they can function properly during our hurricane and rainy season.”

What are best way to properly dispose of yard waste?

“Nationally, yard waste contributes over 35,000,000,000 tons to our landfills,” McIntyre said. “We can reduce that number by reusing our yard debris in our landscape or by composting it."

Many people bag their leaves and go to the store to buy mulch.

However, mulch and leaves can serve the same purpose in the landscape, McIntyre said.

“I recommend people rake their leaves into their landscape beds and pathways,” she added. "If there is concern about them blowing around again or the aesthetics, simply add a small layer of mulch over the top. This will put much-needed organic material back into the soil and defer waste from the landfill. Our sandy Florida soils are fairly devoid of organic material, which is really important for plant health. We can retain that organic material on site for our plants and turf by both using leaves in our landscape beds, leaving grass clippings on the sod and composting larger yard debris with kitchen scraps.”

What are the best ways to dispose of pool water?

Is it time to flush the pool for the summer?

To help protect Florida’s environment, the following best management practices should be followed when draining swimming pools or discharging filter backwash into the environment, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

  • Before draining your pool, allow the water to stand for at least 48 hours after the last addition of chlorine or until the free chlorine residual is < 0.01 mg/L.
  • The water should be clear and free of solids, should not appear murky and should have a pH between 6.5 and 8.5.
  • Algaecides containing copper or silver can interrupt normal algal and plant growth in surface water bodies and should be used with caution. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you recently added algaecide.
  • Control the rate of discharge across your property to avoid erosion and nuisance conditions such as pooling, which can bring odors, mosquitoes or worse -- flooding for you and your neighbors.
  • Direct the discharge over a vegetated surface so that some level of filtration can take place. Direct discharges to surface waters are not allowed; this includes stormwater ponds.
  • Do not discharge on areas recently treated with herbicides or pesticides.
  • Pool and spa wastewater should not be discharged into the sanitary sewer system without the permission of the wastewater treatment facility.