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THE ISSUE: Encouraging waterfront homeowners to construct barriers between yards and water.

By Alison Markham, Broker-Associate, GRI, Realtor® | April 3, 2008

By the Chronicle editorial board.SwalesReducing runoff helps waterways

The Citrus County Task Force is discussing a program that would encourage waterfront homeowners to take simple steps to reduce pollution in waterways.

The program involves constructing swales between yards and the water to cut down on These nutrients contribute to the growth of aquatic plants that choke off waterways.

Swales are widely used along roadways to channel water runoff, and the construction of swales is recommended by a number of state and federal organizations as a best-management practice for reducing runoff pollution.

Most of the research on swale effectiveness is related to their use on highways and in commercial areas. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, dry swales typically remove 65 percent of total phosphorus, 50 percent of total nitrogen, and between 80 and 90 percent of metals from runoff water.

While it is not clear if swales on residential lots near waterfronts would produce this level of pollutant reduction, there is universal agreement in literature on the subject that swales will slow runoff and thus make significant reductions in the amount of nutrients and pollutants entering waterways.

Although there are many sources of nutrients and pollutants flowing into rivers and lakes, construction of swales is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to remove some of these materials before they flow into waterways — and every bit of removal helps. It is encouraging to see a local group promoting the idea in Citrus County.

This is the kind of program that would make an excellent project for a local environmental group to further develop and work with the county to implement. Perhaps the group could develop plans for effective swales that could be installed when homes are under construction, or which existing homeowners could either put in themselves or hire someone to put in at a reasonable cost.

This is the kind of grass-roots activism that can make a difference in water quality and help Citrus County preserve some of the natural attributes that make the county a desirable place to visit, and a great place to live.

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