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Swale Maintenance

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Tropical storms, hurricanes and an overall active rainy season can create flooding in many areas of South Florida.  Stormwater management is particularly challenging during this time of year and the need to minimize flooding, conserve water and reduce pollution increases.

One of the major contributors to good stormwater management is a properly designed and functioning swale.  A swale is a long narrow depression, which varies in depth from six inches to a few feet and is typically wider than it is deep.  You will find swales in grassy areas alongside sidewalks and streets, but also aside parking lots, long driveways, and near other heavily paved surfaces.
Swales are designed to provide water quality treatment naturally to reduce pollution and also to control flooding during storm events. Swales:

  • Collect rainwater and filter pollutants through the sieve-like action of roots, rocks and soil,
  • Control flooding by absorbing water like a sponge and directing it back into aquifers underground,
  • Prevent erosion by holding our sandy soils in place, and
  • Provide a drainage area for stormwater so that it does not pool in the street or push debris into the drain system.

In order for swales to function as designed, maintenance is essential. Swales that have been filled with debris will hamper the movement and conveyance of stormwater and may actually cause flooding. However, swales that have been maintained will provide storage, filtration and conveyance of stormwater for a cleaner, safer and more efficient stormwater management system.

Stormy Swale Tip CardA properly maintained swale helps prevent stormwater pollution and flooding. The following information will assist you with ensuring your swale area manages stormwater runoff efficiently:

  • Mow and maintain swale areas to promote healthy grass growth.
  • Minimize the use of lawn and garden chemicals.
  • Avoid over watering the swale area. If water is standing in the swale when it has not rained, reduce irrigation.
  • Keep swales free of litter, branches, leaves and limbs so water can soak into the ground.
  • Avoid parking cars on swales. This compacts the soil and prevents stormwater from soaking into the ground.
  • Swales located in or partially in the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Right of Way may not be altered by regrading or filling with concrete, rock, dirt, landscaping, trees or anything other than grass unless a City permit has been obtained.*
  • Download Stormy’s Swales Tips Card 

Altering a swale may disrupt its natural drainage features, causing flooding and stormwater pollution.

*As per Section 25-100 of the Code of Ordinances, property owners that propose changes to the swale area, other than planting grass, are required to obtain a City engineering permit. If unauthorized changes are made, owners may be required to restore the swale to its original state. For more information call 954-828-5123, and refer to the Driveway Plan Detail Sheets on the Building Services Permit Forms and Applications webpage.

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