South Bethany’s New “Floating Wetlands” to Improve the Health of Local Waterways

South Bethany, DE – A new project, a  partnership between the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, the Town of South Bethany, and the South Bethany Property Owners Association (SBPOA), will reduce the amount of pollutants in stormwater runoff that flows to Little Assawoman Bay.

While the open waters of the bay have generally healthy levels of dissolved oxygen, and lower nutrients, certain areas such as the South Bethany Canals have chronic water quality issues. South Bethany’s iconic canals are characterized by highly turbid waters, high levels of nutrients (resulting in algal blooms), and very low dissolved oxygen concentrations—levels which routinely fall low enough to harm shellfish and other aquatic species.

One of the causes of these problems is stormwater runoff from neighboring land. Much of South Bethany was developed prior to Delaware’s 1990 stormwater regulations and, as a result, contributes excess nutrients, sediment and bacteria to poorly-flushed residential canal systems and—eventually—to Little Assawoman Bay.

To address these problems, floating wetlands will be placed along bulkheads in many of South Bethany’s canals to help treat stormwater runoff from up to 345 acres of surrounding land. Town Manager, Maureen Hartman explains: “Over the years, the Canal Water Quality Committee has been working tirelessly to restore the water quality of the canals. Floating wetlands have been successful in freshwater ponds so we are looking forward to the success of this project.”

The wetlands will help take up nutrients, and the hanging root systems act like filters to help trap suspended sediment that would otherwise cloud the water. If enough wetlands are placed in the canals, the Town hopes to see reduced levels of nutrient pollution, clearer waters, fewer algal blooms, and improved concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Funded by a Community Water Quality Improvement Grant from the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council, this project will be administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Program.

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays have worked with South Bethany and nearby communities for years to address stormwater issues in the canals by planning and constructing numerous stormwater control projects in the area.

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is a non-profit organization established in 1994, and is one of 28 National Estuary Programs. With its many partners, the CIB works to preserve, protect and restore Delaware’s Inland Bays—the water that flows into them, and the watershed around them.

For more information call Amy Barra at (302) 226-8105 x 103, send an email to or, visit our website: