Friday, March 23, 2012

Florida Stormwater Pond Provides Amazing Communal and Foraging Habitat for Migratory Birds

Stormwater ponds can provide amazing habitat for wildlife.  Over the years I've heard numerous reasons by well-meaning regulatory staff for not planting wetland trees and plants around stormwater ponds.  Arguing stormwater ponds contain toxins and pollutants, Water Management District staff balked at allowing littoral shelf plantings, fearful of attracting birds.
Florida Stormwater ponds planted with cypress along littoral shelves

Being out in the field as often as I am though, it was easy to see that regardless of plantings or no plantings, migratory birds would show up.

Florida Stormwater ponds create an important ecosystem i the Urban Core

The following series of photographs are of a marvelous stormwater pond in St. Augustine planted with cypress and other aquatic plants.  I was totally amazed at the sheer number and variety of birds utilizing the facility for communal and foraging habitat.  

Brown Pelican fishing the Stormwater Pond

I suggest stormwater ponds are going to be visited by migratory and local birds regardless of littoral shelf plantings.  So if the birds are coming, might as well allow littoral plantings and provide much needed habitat within the urban core.

Anhingas, and Wood Ducks utilize the Urban Core water body

Florida Stormwater Ponds provide habitat for Herons with lots of fish

Florida Stormwater Ponds and Wood Ducks

Anhingas are skilled Stormwater Pond fishers

Roseate Spoonbill rests in Florida Stormwater Pond cypress

Florida Stormwater Pond and Canadian Geese

Seeagulls also visit Florida Stormwater Ponds

Florida Stormwater Ponds provide habitat for Marsh Hens and Coots

Wetland Trees in Stormwater Ponds provide roosts for Herons

Robins fill the trees around Stormwater Ponds

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Florida Floating Wetlands Clean Stormwater (A Launch)

Here is a YouTube Video short clip on our Florida Floating Wetlands platforms.  These systems function as a floating littoral shelf, providing wildlife habitat, cleaning water and covering otherwise bare stormwater management facilities with beautiful native aquatic plants.

For more information on Florida Floating Wetlands visit or call us 904-446-8620.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Florida Stormwater Canals Provide Much Benefit to Ecology - Keep Herbicides Away!

We have an amazing stormwater canal in our neighborhood, brimming with ecological benefit.  Most people however turn up their noses at the sight of our ditch.

Granted, all stormwater canals are excavated.  Excavated ditches usually are created to drain wonderful wetlands and floodplain areas.  But there is no going back to forests in our well developed neighborhood and our stormwater canal is here to stay.

Florida stormwater Canal, rich in #Biodiversity
The ecological benefits of our Stormwater canal are many.

She provides an incubation sanctuary for the many small tadpoles and amphibians who later feast on the pest insects in our permaculture garden.  If I chose an ideal location to raise a pest control army, the canal would be optimum.

Spring is approaching here in Northeast Florida and each time I walk to the edge of the ditch I am amazed at the amount of biodiversity hosted within the tannin stained waters.

Native wetland plants line the edges and along with grasses and sedges provide effective filtration systems for the rainfall runoff, cleaning the water before the runoff has a chance to reach local estuaries and the ocean.

Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous are scavenged from the water and locked up within plant biomass, sequestering the toxins mankind has spewed into our environment.

The complexity of animal and plant interactions is simply amazing.  The biodiversity is rich.  The food chain is well developed, from the algae eaters to the swallow-tail kites, Elanoides forficatus hovering above.

No, the ditch is not over run with rats, mice, snakes or other vermin.  A balanced ecosystem will remain  in harmony with our human needs.  Our ditch provides pest control for our garden, fresh air for our backyard, wildlife habitat, cleans pollutants from adjacent roads, sequesters carbon and other toxins, attenuates flooding waters, offers many great photography opportunities, creates a barrier between our yard and our neighbors and more!

That is until the City comes to call with their annual herbicide application.

Where the idea of dead everything somehow is beneficial comes from, I don't know.

But sadly, many community's perception of neatness and sanitation lies in a starkly barren stormwater canal, devoid of all life, a mere excavated and mechanical culvert of water flow.

Nature cannot be held down for long though, and life returns each year.

Unfortunately, the herbicide applications simply take all the sequestered nutrients and toxins and release them right back into the waterway.

Harvesting biomass through mowing and leaf litter collection, removal and composting would offer significantly more ecological benefits.  TMDL credits, compost and other benefits could be achieved.  Waterways would become cleaner.

Maybe someday, but probably not in my lifetime.  The herbicide applicator has a job to do.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Florida Forebay Wetland Cleans Stormwater and Provides Landscape

Our Stormscrubber wetland has passed its eighteen month install date anniversary and still providing successful stormwater treatment, storage and landscape credit.

We installed the StormScrubber in May 2009 on the site of an upscale cafe in the Springfield Historic restoration district in Jacksonville, Florida.

The prior to the install, the site had serious flooding and stormwater problems.

The StormScrubber Wetland solved the stormater runoff issue and provided landscape beauty and credit all in  one package.

The site presented several significant issues.  There was the potential for system clogging because of the sandy and silty nature of the soils.  A permeable paver system using historic bricks was installed to direct the stormwater into the wetland system.

The wetland was planted with Florida native species that could tolerate both inundation and drought.

The wetland system incorporates a special self pruning system to keep roots from filling up the infiltration-void storage chamber.

To date the StormScrubber has preformed as expected, cleaning runoff, storing the rainwater underground and using the collected stormwater to irrigate the landscape feature plant species.

The new paradigm in site design is the combination of landscape units with rainwater storage.  Call us today for more information on how Green and Sustainable BMPs can help maximize your project's design efficiency.

StormScrubber 2009

StormScrubber 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Modular RainWater Harvesting Systems - Cost-Effective BMP

EcoRain Underground Rainwater Harvesting System
Blog Post on Stormwater Harvesting Reprinted from the Green Roof Blog

We've talked about water crises and irrigation of green roofs many times before.  Designing a green roof irrigation system to run off of rainwater instead of potable water is easy.

One of the biggest disadvantages of large rainwater tanks before has been the freight expense of bringing a large tank from the manufacturer to the site.

Many times the cost of freight exceeded the cost of the tank - and there are not many tank manufacturers so the tanks may have had to been hauled across the country.  Long freight hauls create large carbon footprints.

However, several new structural Rainwater Harvesting Systems are now available on the market that are collapsable and can easily be assembled on-site.  For a video of a very large underground rainwater collection system in Dallas, Texas click here (opens in a new window).

Rainwater Harvesting Design
One of the more green subdivisions in Gainesville, Florida, the Madera Subdivision, utilizes underground collection and storage of stormwater in several of their homes.

Collection of rainwater and subsequent irrigation of green roofs can be a valid method for allowing larger buildings on Urban Core lots previously designed with much smaller impervious allotment.  This applies also to historic residential areas where renovations are occurring.

Importantly, the Green Roof design needs to anticipate periods of natural drought where stored rainwater may be depleted.

The use of potable water should be only used in certain instances, and the green roof plant selection should reflect species that can utilize the stored rainwater, however are also drought tolerant.

EcoRain Underground Rainwater Harvesting
Typical Underground Rainwater Storage Systems for Green Roof irrigation are designed and installed with little effort.

First the seasonal high groundwater level should be determined.  This can be accomplished with the civil engineer or geotechnical expert.  For the homeowner, simply take a shovel, I prefer a set of post hole-diggers, and dig a small hole down until wet soil or water appears.

The Green Roof Underground Stormwater Harvesting System should be primarily installed above the Seasonal High Ground Water Level.

Size your storage system to hold a 24-hour storm event quantity for the surface area of the roof you are collecting from.  ARCSA has a great website about sizing and designing systems - click here - opens in a new window.

Modular Rainwater Storage Tank
You can use solar pumps to pump the water back up from the rainwater harvesting cistern to the green roof.

Remember, we a growing population on this globe and conservation of all water resources is important.  Ensure your green roof plant designer is using species that are friendly to conservation of water!

Typical Rainwater Harvesting System
As always, feel free to contact us with your questions!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Typha - Cattails, Stormwater Ponds, Roundup, Nutrients In-Nutrients Out

Killing cattails, Typha latifolia with roundup in a sormwater pond and leaving the plants int he pond to decompose is a sure-fire way of being obvious about not understanding nutrient removal (Nitrogen and Phosphorous) and other pollutants from a stormwater facility.

How often have you seen vast stretches of cattails killed by the action of Roundup's active ingredient - Glyphosate - "GLY-PHO-SATE".

Monsanto has often spoke of the safety of Roundup and I've even seen Roundup representatives drinking the diluted mixture.

Does a wicked job on plants though.

Cattails are a pioneer species and quite persistent in their growth patterns being classified as noxious by many agencies though they are a native species here in Florida.

Cattails are one of the most efficient species at uptaking pollutant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Typha is also an excellent mechanism for removal of heavy metals and other contaminants from stormwater.

So here in Florida -and elsewhere - by the time Typha is killed back by the frost, Roundup or reaches maturity as a plant, large quantities of pollutants have been removed from stormwater and sequestered in the plants biomass.

It is in this part of the equation where we need to break the cycle of Nutrients In Nutrients Out.

Take roundup, kill the cattails - let them fall back into the pond and all the heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorous, oils and greases and other contaminants are soon released right back into the water.

Roundup use concentrates nutrient and pollutant concentrations in stormwater ponds.

Typha and Algae blooms react the same way to the Nutrients In Nutrients Out equation.

Plants are efficient at removing pollutants and cleaning water.

Yet if the plants are killed and allowed to decay in the pond, then all the pollutants and nutrients are re-released right back into the waterbody.

The Nutrients In Nutrients Out cycle must be broken to finally clean stormwater.

Harvesting Typha and removing the species from stormwater ponds is the best long term answer to nutrient removal.

The cattails can then be composted and, after Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure tests (TCLP) the composted biomass can be used as mulch or nutrient rich fertilizer.

Understanding the Nutrients In Nutrients Out cycle is critical to effective and sustainable control of stormwater pollution.

Copper Sulfate and Glyphosate have their rightful place.

To keep ponds sustainable clean - their must also include a Nutrients Out component.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stormwater and Arboriculture - Cypress Landscapes for Stormwater Ponds, Habitat, Traffic and more!

Stormwater Landscaping with Cypress Trees
Stormwater ponds function better with appropriate landscapes such as the cypress trees depicted in the photo to the left.

Many here in Florida argue that stormwater ponds should be free and clear of vegetation.  Some of their arguments include lines of reasoning such as;
  • Stormwater ponds are polluted and plants attract wildlife that in turn could be harmed by the polluted water
  • However regardless of plants or no plants, wildlife come to stormwater ponds anyway
  • Here in Florida woodstorks and sandhill cranes are often seen fishing around stormwater ponds
Importantly, plants around stormwater ponds help clean the stormwater and provide a host of other benefits.

Cypress, Taxodium spp., is especially a good tree to plant around stormwater facilities.

Reasons I choose Cypress as the number one Florida Stormwater species are;

  • Cypress is a native Florida plant
  • Cypress has a low leaf litter rate - THIS IS IMPORTANT
    • other wetland species native to Florida, such as Blackgum, Nyssa spp. contribute enormous amounts of leaf litter to the stormwater pond, rapidly filling up the volume and requiring significant maintenance
  • Cypress provides important habitat for wildlife including - 
    • Communal habitat, and
    • Foraging habitat
  • Cypress can be pruned easily for safety
    • Refer to the above photo of the stormwater pond adjacent a heavily traveled intersection.
    • The lower limbs of the Cypress can be pruned high enough to allow drivers to possess a safe range of view and see automobiles approaching in other directions.
  • Cypress tolerates drought - long periods once established
  • Cypress tolerates innundation
  • Cypress grows well in modular wetlands
  • Cypress contributes towards volume recovery - did you know the Florida water management districts allow for recovery efficiencies from evapotranspiration?  See Chapter 40C-42 SJRWMD and others.
All in all - Cypress is the best plant for sustainable stormwater systems in Florida!