The old way to manage stormwater was to drain the land as quickly as possible, with ditches and pipes straight to the Creeks and River. The City, being surrounded by the St. Lucie River at tidal elevations, and having a number of tidal creeks to drain to from mostly well-drained sandy soils at fairly high elevations, was easy to drain.
The new way is to conserve as much stormwater as possible within each watershed, holding it back with retention areas and weirs (little dams), cleaning it of pollution and releasing it slowly to tide when necessary. The new way not only cleans up stormwater before it reaches the River, it recharges the shallow aquifer from which the City derives its drinking water supply. The annual cycle of wet and dry seasons in South Florida helps, since by the end of the dry season, groundwater levels have fallen, and wet season stormwater runoff can be stored in the ground as well as in surface waters, reducing the total rainfall runoff from the land to the River.
The City's watershed projects actually store much more stormwater in the ground than in surface waters. The same physical, chemical and biological processes that transform septic tank effluent into clean groundwater via drainfields work just as well or better for stormwater stored at the top of the groundwater table.
Surface waters are also a key element of watershed improvement projects, becoming attractive urban water features such as:
- Frazier Lake
- Freshwater Wetlands and Wildlife Habitats (Haney and Poppleton)
- Public Passive Recreation Trails (Haney, Frazier and Soon, Poppleton)
- Tidal Tributaries Cleaned of Muck Sediments (Krueger, Frazier, and Poppleton Creeks)
Conserved surface water can be used in many different ways to improve and beautify our environment, while improving water quality at the same time.