Serving a double purpose: Drainage ditches could be used to clean water

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:

They’re woven in the fabric of Florida driving.

We’re not talking about signs or other drivers. We’re talking about drainage ditches.

You may not give them much thought when you pass them, but they keep water off the roads and “they do fulfill a function which is, you know, clean the water and recharging the aquifer,” said Dr. Serge Thomas, an associate professor at The Water School at FGCU.

Through the use of Biosorption Activated Media, or “BAM,” the Florida Department of Transporation and the University of Central Florida figured out a way to remove excess nutrients from runoff water.

Think of it like a filter using special soil.

Thomas says he can see where the process might help, but here in Southwest Florida, wetlands achieve a similar goal.

“So wetlands have plants that will, basically, will be flooded at some point and then as the water is running through the plants and the roots, they’re removing nutrients,” he said.

So what’s the bottom line?

“It’s a ‘win-to-win’ situation. We should have more of those green infrastructures,” Thomas says.

Down the road, you could pass a drainage ditch designed to do much more.

FDOT says it is doing a pilot experiment with the soil in a few drainage ditches in Central Florida. The goal is to expand the idea across the state.

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