It seems like such an odd equation: protect water by setting fire. According to Will Van Gelder, Land Management Supervisor for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, large tracts of land act as big water filtration systems.
"It takes land to produce good clean water for the community," Gelder explained.
After weeks of rain that returned the aquifer to normal, it's now Van Gelder's turn to protect that water. Friday morning, he and a half-dozen other district land mangers did that by setting a large chunk of forest land on fire.
"There are 92 acres in this parcel," the District's Chris Reed explained of Friday's planned burn. "This is the fourth block of a larger burn unit, which is about 680 acres."
The district has been aggressively burning large swaths of land it manages for the last two weeks. But how does fire help protect water?
"We make every effort to retain storm water on district land. That way, it's here for a longer period of time," Van Gelder said. "It allows the soil to filter the water and recharge the aquifer."
It takes weeks of planning and ideal weather conditions to conduct a prescribed burn. According to Reed, smoke management dominates burn planning. The District attempts to minimize the amount of smoke drifting over nearby neighborhoods.
The controlled burns not only protect water, they save money. Fighting out of control brush fires is expensive, and the District's controlled burns cost only $13.00 an acre.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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