START is in its fourth year working with Suncoast communities with stormwater detention ponds to help reduce the amount of nitrogen in our waterways that feed harmful algal blooms like red tide. With stormwater contributing 65% of the nitrogen in Sarasota Bay and most of our ponds only functioning at 40% to 60% efficiency in removing excess nutrients, we want to expand our water quality tool kit to clean up more stormwater ponds.
Our work with the Healthy Pond Collaborative (START, Sarasota County NEST Program, Manatee County Natural Resources Department, University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Suncoast Waterkeeper and the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida) has enabled us to implement water quality enhancements with No Mow Zones and aquatic plants on the littoral shelf of Suncoast ponds creating over 12 miles of new pond shoreline this year.
Thanks to an innovative approach by the Beautiful Ponds Company, one community replaced inefficient turf grass around one of their ponds with native plants as shown above. After six months the nitrogen in the pond was reduced by 30% and it was reduced by 70% by the end of the year. This is a major reduction in nitrogen that we want to offer to other communities.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, we have some funding to begin this effort with communities already actively using Healthy Pond Practices. By replacing inefficient turf around stormwater ponds with native plants and a resulting drop in fertilizer use and less irrigation, we hope to get the kind of reduction in nitrogen mentioned above.
YOU CAN HELP
As we approach the holidays and a time of giving, please think of START and help us expand our capacity to offer funding to communities to help pay for the cost of landside plant stock to lower the nitrogen footprint in our waterways. All donations we receive during this holiday request will go to this exciting new program.
You can donate to START via our secure website at https://start1.org or by sending a check to START, PO Box 642, Tallevast, Florida 34270.
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