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About the Brooker Creek Watershed

Challenges

Land in the Brooker Creek watershed has experienced numerous changes. It was once cleared and used for cattle grazing, orange groves and tree farms. Today, residential development has replaced many of the farms and open spaces that once existed. The issues associated with rapid population growth, including increasing demand for water resources, growing numbers of impervious surfaces and greater numbers of pollutant sources, raise some topics of concern. To ensure the future health of the watershed, these topics must be carefully addressed.


Water Quantity

The growing number of residents living in the area will create a need for additional drinking water resources. This will require more water to be pumped from the Floridan aquifer. At the same time, the aquifer will experience slower recharge rates because the construction of impervious surfaces limits the amount of water that soaks into the ground. If not carefully monitored, these two factors could reduce the amount of water available in the aquifer and lower groundwater levels. These changes will decrease the amount of fresh water available to residents and could also cause water levels in nearby lakes to drop.


Using rain barrels to store water
Using rain barrels to store water  
There are numerous ways citizens in the Brooker Creek watershed can help reduce the impacts on water quantity. Installing low-flow devices in showers and faucets, fixing leaks and sensibly watering lawns can significantly reduce water use. Residents can also promote greater groundwater recharge through the use of low-impact development techniques. Wetland areas can be created in low spots in neighborhoods to catch runoff water and allow it to infiltrate into the ground, and rain barrels can store water that can later be used for lawn watering.

Water Quality

In 1998, Brooker Creek was added to Florida's list of impaired waters for low dissolved oxygen. In the state's 2002 list update, the Creek was delisted pending further study. Other pollutants listed as threats to the Brooker Creek watershed include fecal coliform (from pet waste and leaking septic tanks) and nutrient runoff (nitrogen and phosphorus).
lawn watering
Lawn watering

The amount of pollution entering streams within the watershed is likely to increase, along with the population of the watershed. The growing number of houses will also mean a larger number of lawns and an increase in nitrogen-based fertilizer use to keep lawns green. The care of lawns and gardens is directly related to the health of a watershed. Rain can wash fertilizer from lawns into streams and storm drains, which do not treat water to reduce pollutants as the water flows to Brooker Creek and on to the ocean.


The oil and chemicals that collect on new roads and parking lots also impact water quality. When areas are urbanized, much of the vegetation and top soil is replaced by impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots and pavement. These impervious surfaces transfer water quickly and do not provide the natural filtering effect provided by native vegetation. Pollutants picked up on these surfaces are deposited directly into storm drains that carry water untreated to Brooker Creek.


Wastewater produced by watershed residents can also affect water quality. Improperly maintained septic systems can leak nutrients and bacteria into area streams. The waste produced by pets also has great potential to deliver unwanted nutrients and bacteria to Brooker Creek.

The pollutants produced by watershed residents degrade the water quality in Brooker Creek. Oil, chemicals and bacteria can make it unsafe to swim in area lakes. Nitrogen contributes to algae blooms that prevent sunlight from entering ponds and lakes while robbing them of the oxygen that fish and other aquatic organisms need to survive. In addition, these pollutants could also filter into the ground and end up in the aquifer that is the source of Brooker Creek watershed's drinking water.

Residents can help reduce pollution in many ways. For example, pet owners can help by cleaning up their pet's waste, and septic system owners can make sure their systems are functioning properly. Homeowners with lawns can contribute by reducing fertilizer use.

Open Space

Through the 1980s, the dominant land use in the Brooker Creek watershed was agriculture. Today residential home developments have taken the place of farmland. Additionally, undeveloped land is also being converted into housing for new residents. Urban development is expected to nearly double in the watershed by 2010. As this trend continues, fewer open fields and stands of trees will be scattered throughout the area for residents to enjoy.

urbanization
Urbanization

Open space provides more than aesthetic appeal to the watershed. Areas of undeveloped land preserve habitats unique to Florida and the plants and animals that live there. As urbanization continues, habitats can become fragmented and disconnected from other natural systems. This could cause changes in species diversity because the area has become uninhabitable for some species. Planning open space along wildlife habitat corridors can help prevent habitat fragmentation.

To help protect our open spaces, get involved in community organizations, such as homeowners' groups, and stay informed about zoning changes taking place around your neighborhood. Provide input at community meetings about the importance of preserving open space.


Flooding

The growing population of the Brooker Creek watershed has generated pressure to develop floodplain land—areas that flood naturally and provide a temporary natural storage area for floodwater. Unfortunately, the land in floodplain areas is not always developed wisely. Some land uses change the natural flow of the creek, such as streams that are diverted through culverts to allow road crossings. Other land uses disrupt the natural water storage capacity of the land, including converting low-lying areas along streams into residential areas, businesses or retail centers. Floods in these areas often result in economic losses for damaged property.

One of the best ways to prevent flooding is to avoid development in floodplain areas. Avoid construction of houses and businesses in areas that are known to flood. Look for land uses that will allow for natural flooding to take place, such as constructing soccer fields or recreational areas that will not be harmed by seasonal high-water levels.



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Watershed Basics
About the Brooker Creek Watershed
  Boundaries
  Land Use
  Population
  Floodplains
  Aquifers
  Streamflow
  Plants and Animals
  Challenges
 

 

Water Quantity
    Water Quality
    Open Space
    Flooding
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