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.
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.
barrels to store water
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The growing population of the Brooker Creek watershed has generated
pressure to develop floodplain landareas 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.