What’s Growing On: Retention Ponds

Preventing Flooding & Boosting Property Values
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - There are more than 70,000 retention ponds in Florida, each of them meant to capture storm water run-off and prevent flooding and erosion. But they also offer additional advantages including lowering pollutants, elevating neighborhood aesthetics and boosting property values.

And at the University of Florida, a team of researchers received a $1.6 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to study the benefits of retention ponds. This month, researchers will start studying the advantages, which scientists refer to as ecosystem services, in a multi-year project. They hope to learn more about the environmental, social and economic benefits during the study.

UF Assistant Professor in Urban Soil and Water Quality, A.J. Reisinger tells us “Much of what we know is that ponds don’t do as good of a job at reducing nitrogen and phosphorous as we might expect; particularly for nitrogen. And so that’s one of the goals of the project is to figure out how to make them better at that job and improve their functioning for us in the landscape.

Reiseinger says that while retention ponds are very similar to natural ponds and lakes biologically speaking, the fact that they are such a visible and common part of our daily lives in florida means that we have a lot more influence on them. That in turn influences the ecosystem services they provide.

Ecologists, water quality and algae scientists, social scientists, economists, and extension agents make up the project team. The team has a lot of goals they hope to accomplish.

UF Assistant Professor of the Soil, Water & Ecosystem Department, Sam Smidt says; “When we put in concrete down, when we put in development that water needs to go somewhere. Before it would go into the ground, now it needs to go somewhere typically it runs off. So we put in these storm water ponds to basically hold that water.”

Researchers will work with local high school teachers to monitor the water quality in retention ponds and understand the biological and chemical processes that take place and how that impacts the types of algae that grow there. One of the main goals is to show how effectively the ponds remove nutrients.

The project will concentrate on retention ponds in Florida, but the results could apply to areas across the country.

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