Orlando, Florida

Using Retrofits and Redevelopment to Turn Back the Clock on Stormwater Impacts

Naturally landscaped water feature at the Baldwin Park Community in Orlando (Source: Baldwin Park Development Company)

The City of Orlando, Florida, has no shortage of stormwater. Averaging 48 inches of rainfall per year, water is a prominent feature in Orlando's landscape. The City has more than 100 lakes, which Orlando's citizens consider valuable amenities for fishing, swimming, boating, and aesthetics — lakefront property sells for a premium. Lake health and water quality are such a concern that Orlando's administrators and elected officials regularly attend monthly lake meetings to hear about and act on the community's water-related concerns.

Orlando's landscape is heavily developed, and its drainage infrastructure is dated and overtaxed, particularly in the older areas of the City. Space for new regional stormwater controls is scarce, and land that is available is expensive. The City's decision-makers knew they needed an approach to managing stormwater that addressed the impacts of existing development in addition to implementing controls for new development.

Urban BMP Retrofits

To address citizens' growing concerns about water quality as well as regulations such as NPDES and TMDLs, the City began to evaluate and implement retrofits on existing stormwater treatment and conveyance infrastructure. These retrofits target the first half inch of stormwater runoff for water quality improvement. The City does not apply a one-size-fits-all approach to retrofitting. Orlando's multi-disciplinary team of engineers, water chemists, biologists, and others perform a diagnostic study at each site to identify sources of pollutants and to model the effects of different retrofit options to determine their impacts. This way, the team can tailor one or more BMPs to the unique site constraints and pollutants of concern. This typically results in the most cost-effective approach and the highest probability for success. For example, in one area drained by a 108-inch storm pipe buried 15 feet below ground, analysis identified the pollutants of concern as debris and turbidity. As no room was available for surface treatment, the team implemented a site-specific approach by retrofitting the pipe to collect debris and flows were treated with alum to settle out suspended sediments.

The City installed a number of retrofit devices throughout their storm drain system, including Continuous Deflection Separation (CDS) units and inlet filters. For the latter, the City experimented with a number of different designs because many filters caused localized flooding. After continued attempts, the City finally identified a filter that performed well and plans more widespread implementation.

Multi-Use Stormwater Management Features

Surface stormwater treatment BMPs are being built in both new developments and redevelopment projects. Requirements for redevelopment sites set forth in the Orlando Urban Stormwater Management Manual (OUSWMM) seek to reverse some of the impacts of previous development by requiring a higher level of stormwater management than was present before.

Wet ponds with a continuous pool of water are still the technique of choice in Orlando and have been popular for the last 10 years. The nature and appearance of the ponds varies by location based on the land use setting. Ponds in industrial areas are built with an emphasis on function, employing minimal landscaping and public access, whereas ponds in residential areas are often lavishly landscaped, offering residents park-like amenities. Examples of projects that create multi-functional landscapes offering stormwater, recreation, and aesthetic benefits include Baldwin Park, Parramore Heritage District, and the Greenwoods Urban Wetlands, as featured below:

Baldwin Park Naval Base Redevelopment Project

Artful pond feature at the Baldwin Park Community in Orlando (Source: Baldwin Park Development Company)

Community Features:
Redevelopment of Orlando Naval Training Center (NTC) lands provide mixed-use residential with multiple housing types, lake and park access, and incorporation within existing neighborhoods. Housing ranges from apartment rental units to single family homes, with integrated offices and other commercial venues. Parkland and lakes spanning 450 acres are also spread throughout the community, as well as an extensive network of trails for recreational use.

Environmental Features:
The project entailed the dismantling of old military buildings containing asbestos and lead paint, as well as the clean up of arsenic and petroleum polluted soils. The neighborhood parks have an underground stormwater system that also uses restored wetlands for enhanced water quality management. Also, a "green framework" was developed that involves the use of open space and greenway corridors to provide a measure of interconnectedness between all parks and lakes.

Sources: Master Redevelopment Team, 1998; Smart Growth Network, 2007.

Parramore Heritage District

Site Plan for Parramore Heritage Park and Pond in Orlando (Source: Downtown Development Board/Community Redevelopment Agency)

Community Features:
A neighborhood revitalization effort is underway that targets five key areas: housing, public safety, business development, education, and quality of life. The plan entails the building of new housing and commercial space, public outreach initiatives, greater police involvement, streetscape improvements, and other steps to improve the socioeconomic status of the area. Stormwater management features will be incorporated into open space to create recreational opportunities for residents. The character and appearance of each park will be determined by the nature of the surrounding areas.

Environmental Features: A centralized Parramore Heritage Park will serve a dual purpose as an amenity for local citizens and as a stormwater collection/retention site for future development in the Parramore sub-basin. A proactive approach to stormwater management is intended to encourage redevelopment in the area. Green spaces will also be included within the surrounding neighborhood and will be linked to existing recreational facilities through strategic streetscaping.

Sources: City of Orlando, 2005; Hood, no date.

Greenwood Urban Wetlands Park

Recreational trails at Greenwoods Urban Wetlands in Orlando (Source: Mid-Florida Milers)

Community Features:
Greenwood Urban Wetlands Park is a 19-acre park that functions as a water treatment facility. Fishing and abundant wildlife are two main attractions. A walkway meanders throughout the extent of the park, which in addition to the picnic tables and benches provides ample recreational opportunities. The park is connected via multiple bridges that span the lake.

Environmental Features:
The park was developed in 1991, and construction involved reconfiguring the land to create lakes and wetlands to retain and treat roadway runoff from surrounding areas. Furthermore, trees and aquatic plants were planted in restored wetland areas to enhance water filtration and retention and provide habitat for wildlife.

Source: City of Orlando, 2004.

Other Stormwater Program Features

Orlando's stormwater program also has a strong source control component that helps to minimize the impacts of existing development. This includes a proactive BMP inspection and maintenance program with dedicated staff and equipment, as well as an engineering inspector who inspects privately owned stormwater controls to identify problems for property owners to address. The latter inspection program is cost-effective for the City because the property owners are responsible for making repairs or performing maintenance or routine cleaning. The proactive inspections eliminate the need for costly clean-up or downstream repairs due to BMP failure.

Other source control measures the City employs include street sweeping and controlling non-stormwater discharges such as spills and dumping. The City's stormwater priorities vary from year to year; in dry years, their focus is on water quality, while in wet years water quantity and flood control are more of a concern.

Stormwater Utility Fee Credit System

Wildlife habitat is a key feature of the Greenwood Urban Wetlands in Orlando (Source: Mid-Florida Milers)

The City funds all of its stormwater activities through a stormwater utility fee that was established in 1989. The utility was an easy sell to citizens because of their concern for flooding and their desire for clean lakes. The City undertook a significant public relations effort to educate citizens about how the money that was collected was being used, and this effort helped improve public acceptance.

Orlando appropriates the costs of stormwater collection and treatment to the City's residential, commercial, and industrial property owners (City of Orlando, 2006). Stormwater credit systems foster community involvement in water quality protection as well as reducing stormwater management costs incurred by the community as a whole. By holding individual entities responsible for the cost to collect and treat stormwater, the credit system helps to ensure a measure of accountability and encourages proper onsite water management.

Commercial and multifamily residential owners are given the flexibility to make the most cost-efficient choice to address stormwater utility fees. Users have the option of either paying stormwater charges in full or developing and implementing an onsite stormwater management plan to earn credits that reduce the fee. Approved onsite stormwater retention or detention affords landowners a credit on fees. Each parcel of land is assigned a billing class code based on the number of equivalent residential units it represents and the level of onsite stormwater mitigation present.

Table 1: Orlando's Stormwater Credit System

Eligibility Basis for Credit Design Storm Maximum Credit Credit Typically Afforded
Multifamily Residential / Commercial Onsite retention or detention NA 42% 42%
Source: Adapted from Doll and Bailly (1999)

Onsite stormwater management facilities must meet specifications in the OUSWMM to have the fee prorated. If a site fails to meet the criteria of the OUSWMM, partial credit may still be given as determined by the City's Utility Division Chief. The fee, billed annually as a non-ad valorem charge (i.e., a charge that is not based on the value of the property) on the Orange County Property Tax Bill, is collected by the County Tax Collector's Office.


Orlando's approach to stormwater management acknowledges that the City cannot reverse decades of urban development. Realistically, pressing water quality concerns required targeted, practical solutions that work within the existing landscape of development and infrastructure. Orlando's program emphasizes stormwater features that not only address water quantity and quality issues, but also provide open space and recreational benefits to residents as well as incentives for redevelopment and economic revitalization.

Additional Information

Stormwater Section Web site This Web site describes Orlando's stormwater program activities.


Stormwater Utility Fee Web site This page describes Orlando's stormwater funding mechanism and procedures.


Stormwater Utility Fee Flowchart (PDF format, 9.15 MB) This file shows how Orlando's Stormwater Utility Fee is calculated.


City of Orlando Development Project Profiles This page lists ongoing projects with links to project descriptions and photos.



Baldwin Park Development Company. 2007. Baldwin Park Photo Gallery of New Home Construction in Orlando, Florida. Accessed March 21, 2007.


City of Orlando. 2004. Greenwood Urban Wetlands. Accessed March 21, 2007.


City of Orlando. 2005. Pathways for Parramore. Accessed March 22, 2007.


City of Orlando. 2006. Stormwater Utility Fee. Accessed March 22, 2007.


Doll, A., and H. Bailly. 1999. Credits Bring Economic Incentives for Onsite Stormwater Management. Watershed and Wet Weather Technical Bulletin. Water Environment Federation. 6 pp.

Downtown Development Board/Community Redevelopment Agency. 2007. Current Major Development Profiles 1st Quarter 2007. (PDF, 9.15MB). Accessed March 21, 2007.


Hood, G.E. No date. The Parramore "Greenprint Program:" Creating Neighborhood Parks and Retention Areas (PDF, 4.24MB)
Accessed March 22, 2007.


Master Redevelopment Team. 1998. Response to Request for Proposals: Naval Training Center - Main Base, Orlando, Florida. Vol. 1, Sec. 1. 6 pp.

Mid-Florida Milers. 2006. Photo: Greenwood Urban Wetlands Heron on a construction waste boom. Last updated February 5, 2006. Accessed March 21, 2007.


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