Stormwater 101: How runoff damages Lakeland’s water sources and how we can help

A line of pelicans on the shore of Lake Morton
Stormwater runoff is considered the greatest source of pollutants in Florida’s lakes, rivers + estuaries | photo via City of Lakeland on Facebook

38. That’s the number of lakes within Lakeland’s city limits. Keeping them clean and pollutant-free begins right at our front door. So, how do we do it? 

Stormwater runoff is considered the greatest source of pollutants in Florida’s lakes, rivers + estuaries. 

What is stormwater runoff?

Every time it rains, water flows across surfaces and around homes + buildings, eventually flowing into our waterways. The more streets, buildings and other impervious surfaces it touches, the more stormwater runoff is created. 

As cities develop and grow, asphalt replaces vegetation, leading to more pollutants draining into the water. There is an imbalance of natural surfaces and impervious surfaces, which means more pollutants can get into our waterways. Depending on the pollutant, concentrations in runoff are 10-100 times higher in runoff from developed land than from undeveloped areas.

What damage does it do?

Runoff has the potential to carry pollutants like oil, trash, lawn debris, fertilizers + pesticides. It not only pollutes nature, but it contaminates our groundwater drinking supply. 

What can we do?

Here are a few small ways you can make a difference: 

  • Only rain goes down the drain. DYK all storm drains in the City of Lakeland discharge into one of the lakes? Anything that goes down these drains will end up in a lake, so make sure you’re not adding to the problem. 
  • Install a curb inlet basket. One basket can collect 200 pounds of trash, leaves and sediment per year. 
  • Pick up after your pets. Bacteria from animal waste can flow into water bodies and harm fish and other animals. 
  • Protect the watershed. A watershed is the entire area of land water flows across towards a body of water. To further prevent the creation of pollution, use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. 
  • Conserve water. Overwatering can lead to damage of lawns and plants. It also hurts our water supply.

Learn more about how to keep our lakes clean.