Watershed Management Information & Facts

In 1990, the Board of County Commissioners recognized the need to address major issues with stormwater and its related pollution problems within Brevard County. They decided that a dedicated funding source was needed in order to manage stormwater and therefore, implemented the stormwater utility and created the Watershed Management program to administer it.

To provide the opportunity for a regional approach to stormwater management, the city of West Melbourne and the town of Malabar joined the Brevard County stormwater program in 1999 and 2000, respectively. The County plays the role as program administrator, ensuring that the policies, procedures and practices of the utility are consistent with those of the existing program. Both the County and cities enjoy numerous benefits from reduced administrative costs, improved regional coordination and more efficient project implementation with other partners.

The utility rate is a non-ad valorem assessment based on the equivalent residential unit (ERU). One ERU is equal to an average of 2,500 square feet of impervious area for a single residential property. All funds collected from the utility are used for the implementation and construction of capital improvement projects that address both water quality and quantity issues. Funds collected in a district or city will be used for projects benefiting the residents of that district or municipality. Currently, the utility is $64 for a single residential unit. To learn more about the projects being built with stormwater dollars, visit the Construction Projects section of this website.

The program has also developed and implemented a Stormwater Utility Assessment credit program for owners of properties serviced by approved and maintained stormwater treatment systems. The policy provides a reduction in stormwater assessments for various levels of owner-implemented and maintained stormwater treatment. A compliance inspection program for proper maintenance of a treatment system is an integral part of this program.

Important Stormwater Facts

  • Stormwater runoff is the number one threat in Brevard county waterways.
  • Analysis of Stormwater runoff in the 1990’s led us to believe the first inch of runoff carried 90% of the pollutants into our waterways. Today’s research and improved modeling technology now indicates that groundwater base flow in between storms, atmospheric deposition and many years of muck accumulation also contribute significant pollutants to our water bodies. Water that goes down a storm drain goes out to the waterways.
  • The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida at 310 miles.
  • The St. Johns River is one of the few rivers in the United States that flows north.
  • The St. Johns River supplies drinking water to surrounding areas through Lake Washington.
  • 72 miles of the 156-mile long Indian River Lagoon is located in Brevard County.
  • The Indian River Lagoon contributes $3.7 billion per year to the region's economy.
  • Over 4,000 species of plants and wildlife are in the Indian River Lagoon.
  • Properties along the Lagoon are valued at $46.8 billion.
  • Recreational activities in the Lagoon contribute 1.3 billion to Brevard's economy.
  • Lagoon fishing grounds account for $300 million in fishery revenues.
  • The Lagoon provides 15,000 jobs to area residents.
  • The Indian River Lagoon is the most popular fishing destination in Florida, with more than 3.9 million anglers visiting annually.
  • Over 2,000 stormwater outfalls drain into the Lagoon.
  • The "muck" located on the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon is decayed plant material and organic soil washed into the river from upland areas.
  • More than 120 million pounds of fertilizer and pesticide-rich soil is flushed annually into the Lagoon in Brevard. That is enough to fill approximately 3,156 dump trucks.
  • Algae blooms are caused by excess nutrients in the water contributed by fertilizers and other factors.
  • Much of the lagoon's sea grasses have been destroyed by untreated stormwater runoff. The sea grass habitats serve as nurseries for many species including fish, shrimp and crabs.
  • Retention and detention ponds are one way to treat stormwater runoff because they catch the water and allow the pollutants to settle out before being released into the waterways.
  • Many lakes in subdivisions are actually detention ponds designed to treat stormwater pollution.
  • To date, over 700,000 pounds of sediment have been kept out of the waterways through 35 sediment-collection structures called baffle boxes. That is enough to fill 18 dump trucks.
  • A single person excretes two billion fecal coliform bacteria in one day. It would take 54 million gallons of clean water on that same day to dilute the bacteria to safe levels for shellfish harvesting.

Watershed Issues

The Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles from the Ponce De Leon Inlet in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County. It is an estuary, a body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mix with the ocean saltwater. Seventy-two miles of the lagoon lie in Brevard County and play a vital role in the community's livelihood.

Some of the lagoon's major contributions to Brevard County include the following:

  • Providing a home to over 4,000 species of wildlife and plant life.
  • Contributing 3.7 billion annually to the economy of the five county region
  • Creating employment opportunities (15,000 jobs for Brevard residents)
  • Supporting recreational areas such as boating, fishing and water sports ($1.3 billion in revenue)
  • Providing grounds for shellfish harvesting

The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida at 310 miles. It is one of the few rivers in the United States that flows north. This means that the marshy headwaters of the upper basin are located to the south where the approximately 1,000-square-mile basin starts. The river stretches from Indian River County to Duval County in northeast Florida, where the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River are currently battling pollution that could potentially prevent the citizens of Brevard County from using it for those very activities that make it so valuable. Untreated stormwater runoff is now considered the state's leading source of water pollution. Stormwater runoff, a form of non-point source pollution, is caused when rainfall runs over the land, picks up pollutants and deposits them into our waterways.

Imagine the path taken by a drop of rain from the time it hits the ground to when it reaches the our waterways. If the rain lands on an area that allows it to soak into the ground, pollutants are filtered out naturally by the soil and plants. However, if the rain lands on impervious areas such as our homes, streets and parking lots, it washes the trash, dirt, leaves, chemicals, oils, residues of ground up metals and rubber, fertilizers and pesticides from these areas into the ditches and storm drains and out to the waterways. The first inch of stormwater runoff carries 90% of the pollutants from our streets, homes, yards, industrial activities and constructions sites.

As part of the implementation of its growth management plan, local regulations were changed in 1978 to assure that all subdivisions and commercial sites developed within unincorporated Brevard County were required to treat stormwater runoff to reduce pollutants reaching our waterways. However, much of Brevard was developed prior to this time and has little or no stormwater treatment facilities.

The stormwater utility was implemented in 1990 to provide a dedicated funding source for addressing existing stormwater pollution problems. The money is used to construct capital improvement retrofit projects such as retention ponds, baffle boxes, and swales in older developments.