That beautiful lake that your home backs up to is actually referred to as a storm water retention pond. Storm water retention systems are designed to percolate storm water runoff from areas back into the aquifer. Clean water is one of Florida’s most valuable assets as continued development threatens to deplete this natural resource.
When a land developer decides to purchase a parcel of land for construction of residential or commercial homes, county and state permitting departments usually require a storm water retention or detention area of some type. Even municipalities are subject to these requirements. If you were to drive down the recently widened Brannan Field/Chaffee Road extension into Oak Leaf Plantation in Jacksonville/Orange Park, you will notice several retention ponds to the west side of the road. These ponds are collection points for rain water that runs off the road.
In your own community you will notice the inlet drains along the curbs of your street. This is the collection point for runoff from the yards, driveways and streets in your area. There are several located throughout the community, each one directing water flow to a pond or detention area. This means that during a rain storm the runoff carries pollutants from your lot into the pond, such as fertilizers recently put down on your lawn, oil and grease from your driveway and/or leaves and grass clippings. While not detrimental to the overall health of the storm water system, over time these pollutants can accumulate and cause problems.
One of the most problematic issues with the retention system occurs in the spring and that is an algae bloom. These algae blooms are the result of fertilizers that enter in to the pond from a number of yards after a heavy rain. In essence, all of this additional fertilizer has fertilized the algae causing it to proliferate and bloom. The next part of this cause and effect issue is when algae blooms occur it depletes the oxygen from the pond (as the algae is consuming it during the bloom) causing a “fish kill” if your pond has fish in it. Fish kills are unpleasant and yes, they smell. But the only solution is to retrieve what you can and dispose of them.
Other noxious weeds have a tendency to take up residence in ponds causing problems. The one that comes to mind is cattails. While cattails in small amounts are not a nuisance, their pollination process can cause your cattail population to multiply exponentially causing issues in your retention pond.
Excess dirt and grass clippings that flow down the retention system will have a tendency to accumulate at the mouth of the spillway at the waters edge creating a “delta” of sorts. This delta or sediment will cause a proliferation of weeds and grass to develop which can ultimately cause flooding as water back up in the drainage system.
If your HOA has a contract for lake maintenance the service company will come out, usually each month or as needed, to treat the lake for noxious weeds and algae. It is important that the company can access your lake by boat, if needed, to perform this spraying. Monthly treatments will usually keep your retention pond looking presentable.
You can do your part by reducing the pollutant runoff from your property into the street. Clean up any oil spills or spots on your driveway, try not to fertilize your lawn before a big rain is expected and bag or recycle your lawn clippings to prevent them from enter the storm water system.
Some additional points
While these ponds perform a necessary function, it is not advisable to swim or consume fish caught from them. Practice catch and release.
Ensure that curb inlets at the street level are free from obstructions to reduce flooding potential.
Every five to ten years, contract out cleaning of the curb inlet drains. This will remove any excess debris that got into the drain but is unable to get to the pond.