What are Stormwater Treatment Areas and why should you care?
The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge faces two dimensions to water challenges: water quantity and water quality. Water quantity is a challenge because we sometimes have too much water, and we sometimes have too little. One way to respond to these extremes is to build reservoirs like the EAA reservoir. While reservoirs help with managing water quantity, they don't do a great job of improving the quality of the water that surrounds the refuge. One important way to improve the quality of the water is to build Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs), which are described in a brief video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeUHSRzUYcE.
As explained by the South Florida Water Management District, STAs are constructed wetlands that remove and store nutrients through plant growth and the accumulation of dead plant material that is slowly converted to a layer of peat soil. Five STAs south of Lake Okeechobee are now removing excess nutrients from agricultural runoff water and, in some cases, runoff from urban tributaries, before discharging it into the Everglades and other natural areas. Two more STAs north of Lake Okeechobee are now in the planning stage.
STAs are comprised of parcels of land with compartments or cells with different plants predominating in each cell. Plants that are primarily above water (a.k.a., emergent plants), like cattails, pickerel weed, and bulrush, remove nutrients and store them in peat-like soils as they decay. Submerged plants, including hydrilla, southern naiad, and chara, also take phosphorus directly from the water in STAs.