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Save Our Springs and Rivers Academy

Save Our Springs and Rivers Academy

Volusia County has a fun and engaging way to educate our community about water quality issues, and — of course — ways to Protect Our Fun, through the Save Our Springs and Rivers Academy!

The Academies are hands-on, feet-wet experiences that familiarize attendees with the Blue Spring springshed and water quality impacts to Blue Spring. Encouraging conversation about topics relating to water quality is key to the success of the academies. Academy participants embark on a water quality journey, learning from presenters as well as each other, to foster a sense of community and shared resources among participants.

Hearing from elected officials, environmental professionals, local experts, and university professors on a variety of subjects related to water quality throughout the course of the academy provides a diverse range of perspectives and facilitates robust discussion. Topics have ranged from where our water comes from and what nutrient pollution is and how it impacts our water to green infrastructure, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, solutions to water quality issues, and ways that participants can advocate for issues that are important to them. Guest speakers have included experts with the St. Johns River Water Management District, Stetson University, Bethune Cookman University, UF/IFAS, Volusia County’s Environmental Management Division, and nonprofit partners.

Why It Matters

Our connection to the water we drink and have fun in is what makes us Floridians! And here in Florida, our surface and groundwater bodies are intricately interconnected. However, we can’t always picture what’s going on beneath our feet, beneath the ground, or in our aquifer, and it can be challenging to connect the dots between what we put on the surface and its impact on our groundwater, our springs, our rivers, our wildlife, and on us.

Kelly Young, Volusia County Water Quality Manager

Kelly Young, Volusia County Water Quality Manager, testing water samples for pollutants and nutrients.

Save Our Springs and Rivers Ambassadors

The Academies are part of an education series that respond to a water-quality improvement need specific to the Blue Spring springshed. The septic tank education program we mentioned in the previous Be Floridian Now newsletter is also part of this series.

Because it’s a primary focus of our academy, how can we not take a field trip to Blue Spring, to hear more onsite and experience the spring first-hand? At the park, we hop into kayaks and launch into the St. Johns River, embarking on a guided experience to the spring boil and the river (seasonally available, and now socially distanced) while learning about manatees and water quality. Park rangers, Volusia County’s manatee protection team, and Volusia County’s water quality managers lead the group through the day’s activities, including a water sampling tutorial.

This shared excursion not only helps to solidify concepts presented throughout the discussions, but it also adds to the collective experience, bringing the group together around central themes.

Prior academy field trips have also included visits to the Southwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility and an exploration of the County’s Lyonia Environmental Center — with a focus on Florida’s scrub habitat — as well as a day at Blue Spring State Park. These field trips give academy participants a chance to learn about the role of scrub habitat in groundwater recharge, to encounter wildlife like the majestic manatee, and to feel the force of the water churning up from the aquifer.

The academies reinforce concepts with personal experience, empowering attendees in their understanding of water quality issues as they learn from presenters as well as each other. Graduates take the pledge to protect and preserve Florida’s water. Upon graduation of the Save Our Springs and Rivers Academy, there are ample opportunities to advocate, educate, and participate in the community to get the word out about water quality issues!

We just wrapped up our fourth academy, and have graduated more than 65 Ambassadors to date!

People who live and/or work in Volusia County can learn more about participating in the next Save Our Springs and Rivers Academy at

Rain Barrels Rock!

rain barrelsOver the last 50 years, development in Florida has skyrocketed and our ecosystems have changed as a result. One of the most obvious changes we have caused is the abundance of stormwater runoff that now enters our waterways. Stormwater runoff is the excess water from rain events that does not absorb into the ground. The amount of stormwater is exacerbated due to the presence of impermeable surfaces, such as streets, parking lots, and residential and commercial rooftops. As stormwater flows over these surfaces, it captures debris, litter, animal waste, and fertilizers that are deposited in our waterways. These pollutants can greatly increase the abundance of nutrients that cause algae blooms.

stormwater runoffOne of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your impact on stormwater pollution is to install a rain barrel (or several!) at your home or business. Rain barrels capture the runoff produced by your roof and store the water for future use. A home in the City of Melbourne in Brevard County with a 40’ by 80’ roof has over 100,000 gallons of rain water runoff each year! In the month of April, which has the lowest average rainfall for the Melbourne area at 2.1 inches, a 9 foot x 10 foot roof will produce 4,189 gallons of runoff or approximately seventy-six 55-gallon rain barrels! That’s a lot of water!

This is free, clean rain water that can be used to water ornamental plants, gardens, and lawns—and can even be used to fill your pool or wash your car! This will reduce your use on municipal sources and will save you money. Rain barrels are easy to install and maintain; just check out the steps below. If you live in Brevard County and are ready to purchase your own rain barrel, visit the MRC website or call at 321-725-7775!


rain barrel setupStep 1: Before you install your rain barrel, it is important to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Is the location I want to put the barrel easily accessible?
a. If you are not able to easily access your barrel or the water from it, it is unlikely that you will realistically use your rain barrel after the novelty wears off.

2. How much sun does this area receive?
a. It is best to put your barrel in a location that does not receive an abundance of direct sunlight. This is because sunlight will cause the water in your barrel to heat, promote algae growth, and potentially harm your plants.

3. Does this location accumulate roof runoff?
a. Your barrel should be placed at a location that produces the greatest amount of roof runoff for the greatest reduction in stormwater runoff. This is usually the location of one of your downspouts or from a “V” or corner of your roof.

Step 2: Raise the Barrel

Once you have selected your location, your rain barrel must be set on a solid, raised platform. This can be as simple as cinderblocks and paving tiles. We recommend using four paving tiles laid in a square with two layers of cinder blocks placed on top and capped with four more paving tiles — like a paving tile sandwich! The height will improve water pressure and will enable you to place a watering can beneath the rain barrel spigot.

rain barrel downspoutStep 3: Adjust the Downspout (if needed)

After you have raised your barrel, you may need to adjust your downspout so that the rainwater will flow directly into the barrel. Do this by cutting the spout with a hacksaw or tin snips. You can choose to leave the downspout as is, or you can attach an adjustable/flexible downspout. If you are using the attachment, secure it with metal screws or zip ties.

Step 4: Downspout Diverter or Overflow

This step will depend on your location of the barrel and how often you plan on using your barrel. Your barrel will fill with runoff at an astonishing rate! However, this means that if you are not regularly using the collected water, your barrel will overflow. This can be a problem if your barrel is close to your house and the overflow may impact your foundation. There are two options to overcome this issue. The first is a downspout diverter, which connects your rain barrel to the main downspout. When your barrel is full, the diverter directs the overflow water back to your downspout, instead of the barrel overflowing. The second option is to install an overflow. This can be as simple as a hose running out of the top of the barrel or as complex as a system of multiple barrels.

rain barrel overflow options


To properly use your rain barrel, it is important to conduct regular maintenance.

rain barrel maintenanceMonthly

  • Drain the barrel completely if you are not regularly using the collected water. This will help decrease the chances of algae growing in unused water.
  • If there is algae growth, drain your barrel, rinse it with fresh water, and add a small capful of bleach. This will not hurt your plants and will keep algae growth down.
  • Check to see if there is debris in the barrel and/or spigot and remove if present.


  • Clean your gutters of debris as leaf litter and sticks can clog the rain barrel system.
  • Check the rain barrel system for leaks and repair with caulk.
  • Check for tears or damage to the mosquito netting and/or rain barrel lid. Repair or replace if needed to prevent pests from contaminating your collected water.
  • Completely drain your barrel, rinse it with fresh water, then scrub it with soap/water or bleach. Let the barrel fully dry before placing it to collect water.


Cocoa Beach Downtown Rain Gardens and LID Streetscape

The City of Cocoa Beach has implemented low impact development (LID) features in the downtown area that not only beautify the streetscape, but also collect and direct stormwater through a series of natural filtration systems. One of the many LID features in the downtown area is a series of 29 roadside rain gardens. Stormwater from the adjacent streets flows into the rain gardens through curb cuts. Once collected in the rain garden, stormwater is naturally filtered by a number of Florida-Friendly plants before slowly percolating through pine straw or gravel — and in some cases bioadsorption media (BAM) — and into the ground. These rain gardens have shown to reduce stormwater nutrient loads in the downtown area by up to 74%. Utilizing natural filtration systems, such as rain gardens, is an effective way to remove excess nutrients and pollutants from stormwater before it enters surrounding water bodies like the Indian River Lagoon.

Cocoa Beach Downtown Rain Gardens and LID Streetscape

Selecting the right plants for rain gardens is very important. Rain gardens are designed to collect large volumes of stormwater, but are not meant to contain standing water after a storm event. Therefore, choosing Florida-Friendly plants that are accustomed to withstanding heavy rainfall and extended dry periods is essential for a successful rain garden. It is also important to plan for different areas within a rain garden to collect more water than others. Choosing plants that are able to withstand occasional to frequent inundation for lower-lying areas of the rain garden that usually flood during small rain events is recommended. Drought-tolerant plants are ideal for areas that are only inundated during heavy rainfall events. A few other things to consider when planning a rain garden, depending on the rain garden’s location, are the plants’ salt tolerance and sun/shade preference.

Rain gardens are also a great feature to add to your yard! Not sure where to start?

Have you noticed spots in your yard that seem to collect water naturally? This may be a good space to implement a rain garden. No puddles in your lawn? Consider a rain garden to catch runoff from your roof, driveway, or patio before it flows into the street. Are you ready to start planning your rain garden? Check out this Rain Garden How-To Manual.


Cocoa Beach Downtown LID Rain Gardens Plant List

Cocoa Beach Downtown LID Rain Gardens Plants

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Carolina Petunia (Ruellia carolineinsis)
Clusia rosea (dwarf) (Clusia major)
Coontie Palm (Zamia pumila)
Croton Petra (Codiaeum variegatum)
Firebush (dwarf) (Hamelia patens)
Frog Fruit (Phyla nodiflora)
Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)
Jungle Flame (Ixora coccinea)
Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Sea Oxeye Daisy (Borrichia frutenscens)
Sea Purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum)
Silver Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus)
Sky Flower (Duranta repens)
Spider Lilly (Hymenocallis littoralis)
Stalked Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens)
Yaupon Holly (dwarf) (Ilex vomitoria)

Cocoa Beach Downtown LID Rain Gardens Plants