New Stormwater Rules on Tap
Florida regulators are behind the times in allowing for water-saving, less-polluting techniques such as pervious concrete, narrower streets, green roofs and swales -- shallow, grassed ditches to replace curbs.
The more asphalt, the harder time water has seeping back into the land. Pavement and fertilized yards also add contaminants to stormwater that must be filtered out. Still, local governments across Florida often require minimum numbers of paved parking spaces and 40- to 50-foot-wide streets, even in small neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Florida's five water-management districts have five different sets of rules for treating stormwater, all of which rely on criteria developed in the 1980s for retention ponds. The ponds aren't as effective at cutting the flow of nutrients into the environment as technologies like green roofs, says Eric Livingston, bureau chief for watershed management at the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The DEP has been working to develop a statewide stormwater rule that would give developers credits for so-called low-impact development techniques, including pervious concrete, which allows water to filter through back into the soil. "We have research showing that green roofs and pervious concrete are effective and reliable. We still need to quantify credits for techniques such as Florida-friendly yards and buffers. Hopefully, we will move forward to streamline permitting with one set of rules and reduce nutrient loading at the same time," says Livingston.
Elie Araj, president of Applied Sciences Consulting in Tampa and a former Hillsborough County regulator, says developers and government officials will come around once they see that simple techniques such as cisterns can hold back runoff and allow reuse more cheaply than other technologies.
"You'll have a lot of opposition from local governments as well as developers," Araj says, "but I think once people see that this is about creating less runoff in the first place, it will make sense."
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