Protecting retention ponds affects local, state environments

By Wayne Hobbs Environmental Horticulture Agent, Clay County Extension
Posted 5/29/19

CLAY COUNTY – Would you love waking up and gazing out across a lake, pond or river in your backyard?In Florida, that question would usually be answered by a resounding “YES!” and …

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Protecting retention ponds affects local, state environments


CLAY COUNTY – Would you love waking up and gazing out across a lake, pond or river in your backyard?
In Florida, that question would usually be answered by a resounding “YES!” and our access to water is a reason for many people to move to our communities. Whether they are natural or manmade, the allure of
waterfront property is huge. But have you ever thought about how the care of that stormwater pond in our neighborhood affects your local and statewide environment?

Why stormwater ponds?

Stormwater ponds play several roles in communities, mainly to catch and help filter water slowly before it enters the groundwater, known as the aquifer. They also help to manage flooding and erosion, provide
beauty to residents and give water and habitat to local wildlife.

Building a buffer

If you live on or near a retention pond, you may not realize how much your actions can affect the health of the water. Excess fertilizer, chemicals and the like will end up running away from your property either down into the soil or along the surface into the nearest storm drain or low area. Retention ponds help catch this water and manage its drainage into the ground to help filter contaminants.
One key way to keep your waterway clean is to limit your practices that could pollute it. Get a soil test before fertilizing and follow UF/IFAS recommendations for your landscape, properly dispose of household

chemicals, and do not apply pesticides and herbicides unless they are needed. In addition, limit activity in this area to limit erosion and keep pet wastes from washing away.
However, if you have a shoreline area you maintain, a buffer zone of vegetation can help the water clean as well. The planting of Florida-Friendly plants suitable to this environment can be beautiful while providing additional filtering and erosion control. This will also cut down on your time mowing the area and give some nice habitat for birds and other wildlife. Some great options for plants can be found at The designs can fit a variety of styles including using native grasses, trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
Furthermore, this area should be “maintenance-free” meaning you should not be actively mowing, fertilizing or working in the area. A 15-foot area all the way around the body of water is recommended.

Working with your community

You may be in a situation where you live by a retention pond but do not have control on how this area is managed. In this case, work with your community’s decision-making body, such as a homeowners
association, to discuss options for an area. A helpful guide on working with homeowners association is available at
This concept of protecting the waterfront, including stormwater retention ponds, is key to the FloridaFriendly Landscaping program which I advise on for the University of Florida in Clay County. If you ever have any questions, would like me to come survey your yard for yard certification (and get advice), or are looking for educational materials or activities, feel free to contact me by phone at (904)284-6355 or through email at
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations. USDA, UF/IFAS Extension, FAMU and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating.


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