Caloosahatchee River and Edison Bridge
Kissimmee River after widening
Fishing in Lake Okeechobee
The New York Times published an article on July 28th, titled “Study Shows Rising Risk to Waterways from Fertilizers.” The article states that increased use of fertilizers from homeowners treating their lawns and from farms use of fertilizers on their crops can result in harmful algae blooms in nearby waterways during heavy rainfalls. The rains wash nitrogen and other chemicals off of lawns and farmland into lakes, streams and rivers which pollutes our sources of water for drinking, fishing and recreation.
Climate Change will increase the rate of rainfall according to the article which will increase the amount of chemicals pouring into our waterways. Scientists urge agricultural businesses to rethink their use of fertilizers when their properties are located near lakes, streams and rivers. Eutrophication is a term used to describe the growth of plant life such as algae which occurs when excess nitrogen washes into waterways and cuts off the supply of sunlight and oxygen. The depletion of oxygen in a waterway creates a dead zone in which other forms of life cannot live.
One of the biggest dead zones in the U.S. is the mouth of the Mississippi River which covers an area of 10,000 square miles or about the size of Vermont. Billions of gallons of water laden with chemicals comes coursing down the river from cities and towns in the middle and upper Mississippi River Water Basin. The pictures shown above left to right are of the Caloosahatchee River, Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee which are all affected by nitrogen, fertilizer and sewage runoff resulting in Eutrophication and dead zones. The South Florida Water Management District has good information about their efforts to control pollution runoff and protecting our lakes, streams, beaches and other wetlands from pollution.
Algae Bloom on Our Beaches
Don’t worry, this picture is several years old and we haven’t seen this kind of algae pile up on our local beaches in SW Florida in several years. However it has happened several times within the last 15 years and it creates lasting impressions of the health of our lakes, rivers and estuaries. Scientists, the Environmental protection Agency and other groups have been studying what causes this problem but the culprit seems to be nitrogen, phosphorous, and human and animal waste being carried into our waterways by storm water runoff and excessive fertilizers being used too close to rivers and streams. The excessive loading of these pollutants causes the massive algae blooms and green scum that covers the water. I have seen thousands of dead fish lying on the shores of our rivers and beaches because of the excessive amounts of nutrients carried into our waterways. Florida is a heavily populated state with yards, farms and mining operations all playing a part in the problem. There are many efforts being made to prevent this excess nutrient pollution including building filter ponds and reservoirs to collect the pollutants and cleaning the water before being released into our estuaries. The Everglades Restoration Project is actually a massive effort to stop water pollution and to restore our wetlands to a healthy state. We can all do our part to stop excess pollution from entering our waterways and to protect our beaches. The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods website published by the Extension Service of UFL provides good advice about using appropriate amounts of fertilizers on our lawns, choosing the right plants to use on our property and slowing down harmful storm runoff. The Environmental Protection Agency has several projects being done to protect our waterways and gives useful information on their website about algae blooms. I have also learned a lot about flood control, water resource permitting and pollution control at the website of the South Florida Water Management District which has responsibility for some of our water quality issues.
click on image for larger picture
illustration of aquifer
The Ft. Myers News Press Editorial section on Feb. 24th, 2014 ran an article titled “Water a Priority” which explains how Florida legislators are making Florida’s resources, infrastructure and water quality a priority issue is this years legislative session. The article points out that many of our springs which are connected with our freshwater wetlands and aquifers are contaminated with pollution from septic tanks, agricultural and urban fertilizers. Florida’s population needs an adequate supply of freshwater which comes from our natural springs and underground aquifers.
Senator Bill Monford, a Democrat from Tallahassee is working with Republican legislators to sponsor a bill that would try and protect our springs from pollution. Monford calls this as yet unmarked piece legislation a “landmark piece of legislation”. Part of the legislation would use documentary stamp money which is revenue in real estate transactions to pay for spring protection and force homeowners to upgrade their septic systems or force them to hook up to a sewer system. The Florida Association of Counties seems to agree with this priority when it said, “Florida must invest in water quality and supply infrastructure to support a healthy economy and environment. “ Illustration and picture courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.
Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge Lake
Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge
The Ding Darling Wildlife Society has special lectures with guest speakers on topics such as keeping our ecosystems healthy, bird watching etc. On Thurs. Feb 27th 5 PM to 6:30 PM there will be a lecture titled “Estuaries: The Science of Nutrient Pollution” given by Ph.D Brian Lapoint. Reservations are required to attend the meeting because many events are have limited seating capacity and are over attended. Reserve your seat by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 239-472-1100 ext 233.