Protecting Our Fragile Water Systems

Protecting our fragile water systems starts at our front doors by Lilly Browning Hernando County Utilities Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator

Do you live on the water? If you live in Florida, the answer for everyone should be yes. We may not all have waterfront property with a view of a lake or pond. But the Floridan Aquifer, the underground system of water-filled caves, is right below all of us. Therefore, in a sense, we all live “on the water.”

photo by Lilly Browning

Our sandy soil allows for good drainage. It also allows a great deal of leaching. The chemicals we apply to our lawns and landscape have the potential to leach through our sandy soils and end up in our aquifer, which is where nature stores our drinking water. Therefore, every one of us who lives “on the water” is responsible for keeping our water source as clean and pure as possible.

The things we do in our yard affect the water below us, and it also affects surface water close by or miles away from our homes. Stormwater runoff carries the pollutants from our yards, the streets and other people’s yards to the nearest open water source, or a closed water source, such as a lake or man-made stormwater pond or drainage retention area.

Have you ever rode in an airplane leaving or coming into Tampa? If you look out of the window, what do you see? Water, water and more water. Florida has many lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, wetlands, and of course, our Gulf coast. Knowing that waterways are always very close by helps us to realize that the things we do in our yards will affect those fragile water systems.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping seeks to protect our precious waterways and estuaries by maintaining yards that reduce stormwater runoff and ultimately protect the waterfront.

Some ways the homeowners can protect the aquifer, estuaries and surface water, are listed below.

-Increase pervious surfaces in the landscape that allow water to infiltrate the soil. This project can include installing bricks or pavers in your driveway or patio areas, or smaller jobs such as creating pathways out of gravel, mulch, shells, or other material that allows the water to penetrate.

-Installing or moving direct downspouts that empty into a landscape bed or lawn to avoid allowing the stormwater from your roof to run down the street’s driveway.

-Install a rain barrel to collect rain water from your roof and store it for future use.

-Create a rain garden. This project will involve digging a slightly depressed area, which will decrease the amount of rain water, leaving your property by trapping it in the depression. Fill the garden with plants that thrive in dry areas with occasional standing water. The purpose of a rain garden is to stop the flow of stormwater and allow it to infiltrate the soil and return to the aquifer and decrease the stormwater’s chances of becoming polluted runoff.

Install a rain barrel | photo by Lilly Browning
Create a rain garden | photo by Lilly Browning

Many water bodies in Central Florida exceed the Total Maximum Daily Load of nitrates, causing unnatural amounts of algae growth. Fertilize responsibly by following any fertilizer ordinances your community may have in place and recommendations from the University of Florida. 

When it comes to fertilizer, “The label is the law.” Follow the directions on the back to a T. Do not add more than what is recommended, nor fertilize more often. Don’t fertilize when a heavy rain event is expected, and if you do live on a lake, pond, river, or coastal area, don’t fertilize within 10 feet of the water’s edge.

Reducing water-thirsty turf areas and having a yard that survives on natural rainfall will also decrease runoff from irrigation systems. Using native and Florida-Friendly plants, and planting the Right Plant in the Right Place will reduce your need for chemicals and high maintenance.

Whether or not we have a view of the water from our homes, the things we do in our yards greatly impact our waterways. Florida-Friendly Landscapes are waterway, friendly landscapes. Let’s all do our part and preserve and protect our priceless waterways.

For more information about Florida-Friendly Landscaping or to learn more about the topics as mentioned above, please contact Lilly Browning, Hernando County Utilities Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator at We have classes on Reducing Stormwater Runoff, Rain Gardens, and Rain Barrel Workshops we’d love to share with you.

1 reply

  1. This is important information. All Florida residents (and visitors!) should be required to study this information and, in my opinion, it should be reinforced at all levels of our education system.


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