Special Topic: Neighborhood Stormwater Ponds

Image Special Topic: Neighborhood Stormwater Ponds

What's that lake in my backyard? Floridians throughout the State benefit from the area's abundant rainfall and the lush, sub-tropical landscape it supports. That lake in your backyard is probably a stormwater pond - an engineered part of your neighborhood's drainage system. Managing stormwater ponds is more an art than a science. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. What follows is a collection of advice and resources to help property owners and community associations solve problems with neighborhood stormwater ponds and reduce lake management costs.

Permits, Rules and Regulatory Agencies

Stormwater systems are required by State rules. They are designed by engineers and are operated under a permit. In a modern housing development, stormwater systems are placed in the common property and the community association becomes the responsible party. The agency responsible for permitting most private stormwater systems in Manatee County is the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD).


Manatee County's municipal stormwater system is permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). This permit requires the County to regulate the use of the municipal stormwater system. Unless a private stormwater system discharges directly to a natural waterbody, it probably discharges into Manatee County's municipal system and is also subject to its rules. Manatee County's rules can be found here (*Opens in New Tab).


Tips for Homeowners

Anything entering a stormwater management system is ultimately discharged into local waterways used for swimming and fishing. To keep waterways healthy, and to help reduce the costs of operating and maintaining a stormwater management system, follow these simple guidelines:


  • Keep stormwater curbs, swales and stormdrains trash and debris free. Debris in our waterways increases the likelihood of algae blooms and low oxygen water, which cannot support aquatic or marine life.
  • Direct pressure washers to pervious or grassy surfaces to minimize surface runoff.
  • Wash vehicles and equipment on grassy or pervious areas where soapy water will seep into and replenish our shallow aquifer. Keep equipment well maintained to minimize oil and fuel leaks.
  • Route wash water and equipment cleaning solutions to the sanitary sewer system. Never dispose or pour solvents or cleaning solutions onto driveways parking lots, sidewalks or streets.
  • Responsibly dispose of construction wastes and hazardous materials – never use drainage swales or stormdrains for disposal.
  • Keep sediment piles at least 10 feet away from waterways and 6 feet from paved areas to minimize stormwater runoff. Cover or contain sediment piles when possible.
  • Never drain pools directly to a waterway, stormdrain or street – chlorine and pool chemicals are toxic to our waterways. Allow small amounts of pool water to dechlorinate for 2-3 days before slowly discharging into grassy or pervious areas. For large amounts of pool water, chemically dechlorinate the water prior to disposal.

Tips for Community Associations

A Lake Management professional should be retained as the community's primary resource for stormwater pond management. These knowledgeable professionals offer a wide variety of solutions and services that can be tailored to meet the community's particular needs. You can find Lake Management professionals in business and telephone directories under the category "Lake Management", or through personal references from other local community associations. As with the hiring of any service provider, interview several candidates, compare written proposals and check references before making a final selection. Manatee County cannot endorse or recommend any particular product or service.


Other tips for community associations are:


  • Understand the operation and management responsibilities for community drainage features, conservation or mitigation areas. The community association should have copies of all plans and permits.
  • Keep the community informed about lake management decisions. This is especially important when there are a large number of seasonal residents from out-of-state.
  • Lake management is a year-around activity. Have a procedure for contacting responsible individuals in the community year-around. The summer rainy season is a prime time for stormwater system problems to develop.
  • Recognize that some lake management problems will require more focused attention from the association. Larger community associations may find it efficient to form a lake management subcommittee.
  • Consider developing a long-term plan for maintaining or improving the aesthetics or performance of the community stormwater system. Some improvements may also control the growth of maintenance expenses. Funding assistance may be available for performance improvements.

Additional resources on lake management are provided, below. You may also contact the Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division (941-742-5980) with general questions about maintenance, operation or improvement of association stormwater systems.


Important Note Concerning Wildlife

Stormwater ponds, like natural waterbodies, are attractive to wildlife. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) (*Opens in New Tab) is the statutory wildlife authority in Florida. 


Call the FWCC Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) to report nuisance alligators. A link to the FWCC publication "A Guide to Living with Alligators" is in the resources.