I am sitting here writing this month’s blog post with Emily just passing by us and our skies are still dark and grey. The weather forecast also has some additional rain coming our way this week. So, those conditions, coupled with a lively stormwater discussion at one of last week’s Viera Orientation sessions sparked my interest in talking about Viera’s stormwater drainage system. Yes, I know, it sounds really boring right now, but it is important to know how our system works if you live anywhere near one of our stormwater retention ponds so that an influx of a large amount of rain does not send you to the sand bag depot with worry about your home flooding.
All of the water bodies in Viera are man-made and are part of the overall stormwater drainage system. These ponds serve two very different, but very important, purposes. First, especially this time of year, these ponds collect and convey stormwater to prevent flooding. Second, they act as an onsite water treatment facility where nutrients and pollutants are removed from stormwater runoff before travelling west into the River Lakes Conservation Area and the St. John’s River.
Let’s discuss the stormwater conveyance function first. The overall Master Drainage System is a series of interconnected and cascading ponds and canals that prevent flooding by transporting excess rainwater away from us. Water levels within the ponds are controlled by topographic features and groundwater levels. When it rains and the water runs into the storm drains and then into the ponds, the ponds all “share” the water through connected, underground drainage pipes allowing the water levels stay pretty much the same. You really don’t notice too much fluctuation unless we get a deluge – but then the levels normalize. This rainwater is then transported to canals that convey the stormwater to the St. John’s River to our west. These canals were originally part of the Cocoa Ranch’s irrigation and drainage system and still work that way today. If you look closely at an aerial view of Viera toward the west, you will see the drainage canals and their route to the river. This is why it is so important to monitor the ponds and canals each year, especially before the rainy season, to make sure the water is flowing and there are no blockages along the way. This is also why you should never, ever put anything down a storm drain. In last month’s newsletter, we showed you a picture of someone here in Viera stacking palm fronds in front of a storm drain. That is a big no-no and seriously impacts the integrity of the drainage system by blocking water’s access to the system.
As stormwater treatment facilities, these ponds take in and “treat” stormwater by filtering out as many pollutants and nutrients as possible before it makes it way to the St. John’s River. Unless you are very new to the area, you probably remember the massive fish kill last March in the Indian River Lagoon. Although Viera does not drain to the Indian River Lagoon, the condition of the lagoon and the fish kill was caused stormwater runoff. The water was not able to be “treated” before emptying into the lagoon. Rain washes the fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste and pollutants into the lagoon, which causes poor water quality and algae blooms. Here is a staggering fact: Stormwater is considered the largest contributor to degraded water quality in Florida.
Let me stop here for a second to talk about pet waste. Pet waste can cause harmful fecal coliform bacteria and excess nutrients to enter our stormwater retention ponds causing algae blooms and fish kills. According to Pooches for the Planet:
- An average size dog dropping produces 3 billion fecal coliform bacteria
- Research has shown that up to 95% of the fecal coliform found in urban stormwater comes from animals
- Observations of people walking their pets in public areas show that men are less likely to pick up after their dogs than women;
- A national survey shows that 38% of dog owners don’t clean up after their pets
Just imagine how much cleaner our stormwater retention ponds would be if everyone picked up after their pets.
In Viera, stormwater travels through wetlands, stormwater retention ponds (cascading from one to another) and the canals, which gives the stormwater several opportunities to be treated and cleaned through methods such as beneficial littoral zone vegetation (natural filtration), aeration and chemical treatments. In particular, shoreline vegetation is a great natural filter for pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which lead to algae blooms. This vegetation also attracts wildlife to the pond – and we all appreciate looking out our back door at Florida’s wildlife.
After all of this, I hope everyone understands that the beautiful “lakes” that we live on play a significant role in how Viera handles stormwater and in the health of our natural environment. We all have a responsibility to make sure that we do not do anything to impact the performance of these stormwater retention ponds because our homes, businesses, property values and our environment depend on their ability to do their jobs.
So, until next time, please remember … “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Eva M. Rey, President
Central Viera Community Association, Inc.