David Kramer, P.E. Environmental Resource Permit bureau chief at Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Record amounts of rainfall in some areas over the summer has highlighted the importance of stormwater ponds to help prevent flooding and improve water quality throughout the region. You may have seen stormwater ponds throughout neighborhoods and commercial developments in Florida but might not know about their purpose, as many people often mistake stormwater ponds for natural water bodies.

Southwest Florida Water Management District ERP Bureau Chief David Kramer answered some of the most commonly asked questions about stormwater ponds and explained why they are critical in flood prevention and how to improve water quality.

Q: What are stormwater ponds and why do we need them?

A: A stormwater pond is designed to collect and manage runoff from rainwater. When rainwater lands on rooftops, parking lots, streets, driveways and other hard surfaces, the rainfall that doesn’t soak into the ground (stormwater runoff) flows into your neighborhood stormwater pond through grates, pipes, shallow swales or ditches.

Stormwater ponds are required for most new development (since the 1980s) and are specifically designed to help prevent flooding and remove pollutants from the water. Without these ponds, excess stormwater would flood downstream to adjacent systems and properties. It would also carry pollutants like litter, motor oil, gasoline, fertilizers, pesticides, pet wastes, sediments and anything else that can float or dissolve in water into nearby streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico.

Q: Who is responsible for maintenance of stormwater ponds in my neighborhood?

A: Once the developer has completed construction of the roads and drainage system in a neighborhood, the property owners association (or in some cases, a community development district (CDD)) is typically responsible for maintaining the neighborhood drainage system, including the stormwater ponds. The long-term upkeep and maintenance of the ponds becomes the responsibility of the association or CDD, including labor and expenses for keeping the system functional.

Q: Is it OK to use stormwater ponds for recreational purposes such as fishing, swimming, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding?

A: Recreational use of stormwater ponds is potentially hazardous to your health and is not recommended. Stormwater ponds are designed to capture and retain stormwater runoff, which may contain many different types of pollution, including sediments, oils, greases, trash, nutrients, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides and pathogens.

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