SURFACE WATER MANAGEMENT [SWM]

The natural resources that attract so many residents and visitors to Pinellas County depend on the quality of our surface waters. While water quality is affected by both natural and human activities and circumstances, land development has significantly altered natural floodplains and ecosystems. Every inch of Pinellas County drains somewhere, and many waterbodies are currently considered impaired. Our daily activities affect the health of the watershed. The goals, objectives and policies in the Surface Water Management chapter recognize the direct connections to our watershed and seek to improve our water quality and preserving our quality of life.

Everyday Actions

  • Pick up after your pet! Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that can make people sick and excessive nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms.
  • Only rain down the drain! Never put waste down a storm drain, they ultimately lead to the waterways that make Pinellas beautiful.
  • Leave your grass clippings on the lawn, not on the street, driveway or sidewalk. They can wash down the storm drains and contribute to algal blooms and fish kills.
  • Don’t litter! Trash can block storm drains and contribute to flooding.
  • Skip the fertilizer during the summer rainy season. Incorrect use of fertilizer and poor landscape debris management can allow nutrients to leach into the groundwater and wash into storm drains that flow to creeks, lakes, Tampa Bay, or the Gulf of Mexico.

Goals, Objectives, Policies & Strategies 

SWM GOAL 1 (Model Community):  

BECOME A MODEL COMMUNITY FOR COMPREHENSIVE INTEGRATED WATER MANAGEMENT AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF INNOVATIVE TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY AND PROTECT, ENHANCE AND RESTORE NATURAL RESOURCES AND PROCESSES.

SWM OBJECTIVE 1.1:  

Reduce adverse impacts of the built environment and promote the natural movement of water within watersheds to protect, enhance and restore hydrologic and ecological functions.

SWM POLICY 1.1.1:  

Promote and apply best practices for surface water quality improvement to protect, enhance and restore natural resources, biodiversity and estuarine productivity.

SWM STRATEGY 1.1.1.1:  

Maintain and implement a stormwater manual that:

  • Promotes innovative stormwater management techniques and supports alternatives that result in the intended outcome;
  • Meet performance standards and technical requirements;
  • Meet stormwater quantity and quality standards; and
  • Maintains function under rising sea level conditions.
SWM STRATEGY 1.1.1.2:  

Utilize incentives and requirements for innovative stormwater management techniques as viable alternatives to conventional practice.

SWM POLICY 1.1.2:  

(Re)development shall be sustainable and preserve or enhance water quality.

SWM STRATEGY 1.1.2.1:  

Utilize the Land Development Code and other regulations to improve surface water quality and protect natural resources, and:

  • Consider the most current regulations, technical data, models and plans available and address changing conditions due to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise;
  • Reduce impervious surface coverage;
  • Require natural upland buffers adjacent to wetlands, permanent and seasonal streams, natural drainage channels, lakes, estuaries and other surface waters;
  • Require erosion control to reduce sedimentation and turbidity;
  • Require stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPP);
  • Permit the use of isolated wetlands for stormwater attenuation when not in conflict with environmental or public use considerations;
  • Retain or restore the stormwater and floodplain management functions of natural drainageways and storage areas;
  • Limit fill to protect floodplain and/or ecological function;
  • Protect viable native floodplain forests from destruction;
  • Require property served by septic systems to connect to an available wastewater system within 180 days in accordance with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) regulations and Pinellas County Ordinances;
  • Encourage and incentivize the use of Florida Friendly Landscaping™ principles;
  • Encourage and incentivize the use of cisterns and rain barrels to retain stormwater for landscape irrigation;
  • Require enhanced stormwater treatment and flood attenuation systems for projects that outfall to outstanding Florida waters, consistent with federal, state, and local standards and adopted watershed management plans.
SWM STRATEGY 1.1.2.2:  

Regulate the use and sale of fertilizer and promote best practices in fertilizer application and management.

SWM STRATEGY 1.1.2.3:  

Maintain designated buffer zones prohibiting the application of fertilizers on vegetation in close proximity to the receiving waters of the County.

SWM OBJECTIVE 1.2:  

Meet or exceed federal, state, and regional regulatory requirements and water management planning objectives.

SWM POLICY 1.2.1:  

Implement the requirements of the County’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in coordination with co-permittees to protect and enhance the quality of the County’s surface waters.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.1.1:  

Collaborate with federal, state, regional and local agencies to gather and evaluate data to:

  • Identify major pollution problems affecting County and regional waters; and
  • Improve monitoring and compliance enforcement of point and non-point source discharges.
SWM STRATEGY 1.2.1.2:  

Monitor surface water in coordination with the municipalities to evaluate:

  • The degree of watershed/water body impairment;
  • The overall effect of management activities;
  • The quality of surface waters; and
  • The overall health of dependent living resources.
SWM STRATEGY 1.2.1.3:  

Maintain an inventory of stormwater assets and operation and maintenance (O&M) plans to meet NPDES permit and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Community Rating System (CRS) conveyance credit requirements.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.1.4:  

Promote the reduction and/or elimination of point source pollutant loadings by:

  • Requiring alternative reuse and disposal options;
  • Enforcing illicit discharge regulations; and
  • Implementing SWPPP for both County and private (re)development.
SWM POLICY 1.2.2:  

Meet or exceed the requirements of the Clean Water Act to protect and enhance the quality of the County’s surface waters.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.2.1:  

Implement Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) monitoring and implementation plans to achieve the assigned TMDL on the schedule approved by FDEP.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.2.2:  

Utilize the Land Development Code to include stormwater and surface water treatment regulations to meet TMDL requirements and improve water quality.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.2.3:  

Implement TMDL monitoring and implementation plans in cooperation with applicable municipalities.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.2.4:  

Implement regulations requiring O&M plans for private stormwater systems that are attached to the property deed.

SWM POLICY 1.2.3:  

Participate in the Pinellas County Wastewater Stormwater Partnership Task Force, and Technical Working Group to identify strategies to:

  • Increase wastewater treatment capacity as appropriate;
  • Increase wastewater storage capacity as appropriate; and
  • Reduce inflow and infiltration of stormwater and groundwater into the sanitary sewer system.
SWM POLICY 1.2.4:  

Coordinate with Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), the FDEP and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) in protecting, restoring or enhancing natural habitats, estuaries and natural systems.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.4.1:  

Ensure consistency with SWFWMD’s Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan (CWMP) for the Tampa Bay/Anclote watershed and TBEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP).

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.4.2:  

Participate in revegetation projects for tidal flats, tidal streams, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, salt marshes, salt barrens, freshwater wetlands and uplands.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.4.3:  

Collaborate with SWFWMD and FDEP in the development and implementation of management plans for restorative and mitigative programs.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.4.4:  

Partner with SWFWMD in the demonstration of low impact development and other new and innovative stormwater management techniques.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.4.5:  

Collaborate with SWFWMD in the development and implementation of surface water improvement and management plans (SWIM).

SWM POLICY 1.2.5:  

Participate in and support the TBEP and its partnership approach to the protection and restoration of Tampa Bay.

SWM STRATEGY 1.2.5.1:  

Implement the Pinellas County components of the CCMP for Tampa Bay.

SWM GOAL 2 (Regional Approach):  

TAKE A REGIONAL APPROACH TO SURFACE WATER MANAGEMENT.

SWM OBJECTIVE 2.1:  

Identify and implement water management solutions on a regional scale to improve water quality, reduce flood risk, protect, enhance and restore ecosystems, provide multiple benefits, and work across jurisdictional boundaries.

SWM POLICY 2.1.1:  

Promote an economically sustainable and environmentally sound regional approach to surface water management.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.1:  

Coordinate with all affected jurisdictions and agencies for surface water control, protection, enhancement, restoration and management.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.2:  

Where multi-jurisdictional benefit is derived, take a lead role in the development of surface watershed management plans. Enter into interlocal agreements to ensure:

  • Cooperation in plan development and implementation;
  • Consistent implementation of management strategies; and
  • Shared funding responsibilities.
SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.3:  

Collaborate with federal, state, regional and local agencies to gather and evaluate data, and to remain knowledgeable of the effects of toxic contaminants and water pollutant hazards on water quality and biological resources.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.4:  

Encourage regional surface management facilities designed and sized to accommodate several project sites and incorporate recreation components when technically, environmentally and economically desirable.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.5:  

Evaluate the development of an impact fee and/or regional stormwater credit system to support regional systems and to encourage public/private partnerships for more efficient surface water management within a catchment area.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.6:  

Evaluate the feasibility of establishing trust funds to be used for the development of regional stormwater facilities.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.7:  

Coordinate with permitting agencies on regulations that encourage and support innovative and creative strategies for surface water management.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.8:  

Coordinate with municipalities to address changes in surface water management responsibilities as a result of annexation.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.9:  

Solicit municipal comments before applications for (re)development are heard by the Pinellas County Water and Navigation Control Authority to strengthen coordination with local governments in the protection of multi-jurisdiction estuaries.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.10:  

Remain an active participant in technical and management studies regarding the impacts of atmospheric deposition on surface water quality.

SWM STRATEGY 2.1.1.11:  

Identify floodplain areas for acquisition for the purpose of stormwater treatment, recreation and open space.

SWM POLICY 2.1.2:  

Practice multi-jurisdictional cooperation and coordination to help educate the public regarding the surface water management program and regional priorities.

SWM GOAL 3 (Reduce Risk):  

REDUCE RISK TO LIFE, PROPERTY, AND NATURAL RESOURCES THROUGH SURFACE WATER AND FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT.

SWM OBJECTIVE 3.1:  

Manage surface water runoff and preserve and manage the storage value and purpose of natural floodplains to reduce risk to life and property.

SWM POLICY 3.1.1:  

Achieve or exceed the minimum levels of service for surface water management and flood control considering future conditions including sea level rise, wave heights, changes in precipitation and other consequences of climate change:

  • All applicable federal, state, and local regulations relating to flood control, stormwater treatment and wetland protection, shall be met in public and private project design.
  • The 25 year storm (4 percent chance of annual occurrence) design standard shall confine the runoff from up to and inluding a 25 year, 24 hour rainfall event within drainage channel banks, or within designated 25 year floodplains, to reduce risk to human life and property.
  • The 100 year storm (1 percent chance of annual occurrence) design standard shall reduce risk against flooding by a 100 year, 24 hour rainfall event.
  • Preference shall be given to stormwater management options which restore floodplains and remove obstructions from floodways.
SWM POLICY 3.1.2:  

(Re)development must meet the established levels of service for surface water management and flood risk reduction.

SWM STRATEGY 3.1.2.1:  

Utilize the Land Development Code to ensure re(development):

  • Meets stormwater management standards (consistent with the regulatory framework of this Chapter), and provides improved stormwater treatment when compared to its previous state;
  • Does not increase stormwater runoff or decrease water quality on surrounding properties; and,
  • Does not adversely impact off-site conveyance and treatment systems.
SWM POLICY 3.1.3:  

Reduce risk to life and property from floods by restricting (re)development within areas of known flooding.

SWM STRATEGY 3.1.3.1:  

Discourage any proposed increase in density or impervious surface ratio within the 100-year floodplain, a repetitive loss area, or within an area of known flooding identified in an existing watershed plan, (Note: Increases in density or intensity are not permitted within the CSA in accordance with CM Policy 2.1.3). Any permitted increase must demonstrate:

  • How existing flooding issues will be resolved; and floodplain benefits will be realized;
  • Compliance with all applicable floodplain, flood protection and stormwater regulations designed to future conditions (for expected life of structures);
  • Mitigation for any increased shelter and evacuation demands; and
  • Mitigation for habitat impacts.
SWM STRATEGY 3.1.3.2:  

Development agreements may be required to formalize floodplain management and public safety requirements.

SWM STRATEGY 3.1.3.3:  

Wetlands, floodplains and floodways will be preserved and protected as conveyance systems, natural storage and wildlife and vegetative habitat.

SWM POLICY 3.1.4:  

Construction in floodplains shall be regulated by the Land Development Code and all other applicable local, state, and federal regulations.

SWM POLICY 3.1.5:  

Protect floodplains, floodways and other natural areas having functional hydrological characteristics to minimize adverse impacts on the natural system, public safety and investment and floodplain function and purpose.

SWM STRATEGY 3.1.5.1:  

Prohibit dredging and filling or other (re)development activities having significant long-term impacts on the ecological or hydrological functions of the floodplain.

SWM STRATEGY 3.1.5.2:  

Potential impacts of (re)development on the functional hydrological characteristics of floodplains, floodways and other natural areas must be identified and demonstrate that:

  • Impacts are avoided or mitigated;
  • No (re)development or fill is allowed within the 100 year floodway;
  • There is no increase in base flood elevation within the 25 year and 100 year floodplain resulting from the activity and flood hazard reduction provisions are met;
  • Equivalent compensation is provided to offset a reduction in natural floodplain storage, including water quality and habitat benefits;
  • Wetland portions of sites within 100 year floodplains are designated as conservation easements;
  • Preference should be given to natural and/or open storage and treatment over underground enclosed systems to maximize water quality treatment, benefits and habitat; and
  • If enclosed systems are installed, operation and maintenance plans must be implemented to ensure water quality standards are met for discharge to surface waters.
SWM STRATEGY 3.1.5.3:  

Collaborate with SWFWMD to develop technical standards and specifications to preserve the ecological and natural functions of floodplains.

SWM STRATEGY 3.1.5.4:  

Coordinate holistic floodplain management with municipalities to evaluate cross-jurisdictional floodplain impacts in shared watersheds.