Water-Related News

New law gives Florida DEP gets new duties, including septic systems oversight

Under a new bill signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis Tuesday [June 30th], the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will take on new duties as an agency. Notably, those duties will include regulating the more than two and a half million septic systems in the state.

DeSantis, speaking to press in Juno Beach, said DEP is inheriting that responsibility from another state agency:

“The Florida Department of Health, which currently oversees the state septic system regulations, only contemplates the human health impacts of septic systems, but not their environmental impact,” the governor said. “This legislation transfers the authority of septic tank inspection from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection, to make sure environmental harm by septic systems is finally accounted for.”

The legislation also directs the state DEP to update regulations that apply to storm water systems. The governor says emphasis in storm water regulation has historically been on preventing flooding, and has neglected taking into account environmental impact.

DeSantis told reporters storm water systems throughout the state are based on “outdated science,” and allow pollutants to enter Florida waterways.

Algae bloom along Florida’s west coast is not red tide. So what is it?

State wildlife officials say a Trichodesmium algal bloom has been lingering off the coast of Southwest Florida the past few weeks.

It’s a cyanobacteria that always exists in the Gulf of Mexico. Blooms are a yearly occurrence with colors varying from golden brown, to green, and even pink.

Kate Hubbard leads the algal bloom research and monitoring program at the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. She said this bloom is now being reported from Pinellas County down to Collier County.

“We also had some levels that we found in Gasparilla Sound, and then also on the east coast in Flagler Beach,” she said. “That is interesting and helps us really turn to looking at ocean circulation.”

Hubbard said the Saharan winds are blowing iron-rich sands into the Gulf. Trichodesmium feeds off of that iron. Then it consumes nitrogen from the air and disperses nutrients into the water, which could potentially feed toxic red tide blooms—those don’t typically start until the end of the summer.

So other than possibly nourishing red tide, and also cutting off some oxygen to marine life in the water, Trichodesmium blooms are not known to be harmful.

Study: Saharan dust may help fuel red tide in the Gulf of Mexico

A large plume of Saharan dust from Africa, over 2,000 miles wide, is surging across the Caribbean Sea. It’ll push into the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the United States, including Florida, later this week and linger into next week.

The plumes coming off the coast of Africa are quite normal. These plumes of dust typically begin in mid-June and run through mid-August, peaking somewhere in the middle.

There are many benefits to Saharan dust. It helps to temporarily suppress or lower tropical activity, can lead to vibrant sunrises and sunsets, fertilize soil in the Amazon, and help maintain Caribbean beaches.

However, the dust isn’t all positive. According to a study partially funded by NASA, Saharan dust brings nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s West Coast that may kick off blooms of red tide.

This is largely due to iron, one of the minerals found in the dust. As the dust falls into the Gulf, it attracts a cyanobacteria, called Trichodesmium. The bacteria uses that iron to convert any nitrogen in the water into a form that can be consumed by other marine organisms, including the algae that leads to red tide.

The study found that in June 1999 dust from the Sahara Desert made its way across the ocean and reached parts of Florida in late July. By October, and after a 300% increase of this biologically-accessible nitrogen, a huge bloom of toxic red algae had formed within the study area, an 8,100 square mile region between Tampa Bay and Fort Myers.

The blooms go through cycles — they start offshore and as they move near shore, they intensify and can be detected and monitored. Florida sees a red tide bloom nearly every year, but not every bloom is devastating.

Hillsborough County Extension seeks participants in soil moisture study

Save Money Conserve Water Grow a Healthier Lawn

Soil moisture sensor study needs participants. Do you qualify?

Do you ever see a sprinkler watering a lawn when it's raining out, and think: what a waste of water? Well, it is. That's why Hillsborough County Extension Service is calling for residents and businesses to participate in a soil moisture sensor study. Qualified participants will receive a free soil moisture sensor or rain sensor with installation, a value of more than $150. Either device could save you money on your water bill, conserve precious potable water, and help you get a healthier lawn.

If you're tired of seeing your cash go down the drain to keep your lawn looking lush, see if you qualify to participate in the study.

  • Are you a Hillsborough County water customer?
  • Are you a business or homeowner south of State Road 60?
  • Do you have an automatic in-ground irrigation system?
  • Do you use potable water for landscape irrigation?
  • Does your water usage exceed 15,000 gallons a month?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, call (813) 744-5519, ext. 54142, or email StaplesP@HCFLGov.net to learn how you can be part of the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County Soil Moisture Sensor study.

The Soil Moisture Sensor study is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Hillsborough County Public Utilities. It is conducted by the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County.

Study: Florida has thousands more high-risk properties than FEMA says

Cape Coral and Tampa are the first and second most-exposed cities in the state, the disaster modeling found.

About 114,000 more Florida properties are at risk of flooding in a 100-year storm than the Federal Emergency Management Agency currently estimates, according to a model released Monday by a nonprofit arguing the country has undersold its vulnerability to disasters.

Tampa is the second-most exposed city in the state, says the First Street Foundation, with 43,111 properties that could flood in such an event — the seventh most at-risk in the country. No. 1 in the United States is Cape Coral, according to the analysis, with more than 90,000 at-risk properties.

The foundation’s flood tool is meant to highlight gaps in federal insurance maps and give home buyers what First Street promises is a better view of vulnerability. The data include property-specific reports that are accessible online for users to search their address — and will soon also be displayed on realtor.com, one of the largest real estate listing websites in the country, the company said.

SWFWMD draft 2020 Regional Water Supply Plan available

SWFWMD logo

The Southwest Florida Water Management District's (District) draft 2020 Regional Water Supply Plan (RWSP) is now available on the District’s website for review and comment by stakeholders and the public. The plan identifies existing and projected water demands across all water use categories, available potential water sources, and projects and funding sources to meet those demands within the District’s four planning regions over the next 20 years.

Two online webinar workshops will be held in June to provide opportunities for the public and stakeholders to learn more and comment on the draft plan. All public comments and feedback are taken into consideration and may be included in the final plan document. The comment period ends July 15 at 5 p.m.

The public webinars will take place:

  • June 24 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

This meeting will be held via Microsoft Teams. Please copy and paste the following URL into your browser, https://bit.ly/3cJFaOI and follow the instructions to connect to the meeting. Please use the web interface for Teams. Google Chrome is the recommended browser for best compatibility. Members of the public can also call into the meeting at (888) 585-9008 using the conference code 346-054-201.

  • June 30 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

This meeting will be held via Microsoft Teams. Please copy and paste the following URL into your browser, https://bit.ly/2BUzG79 and follow the instructions to connect to the meeting. Please use the web interface for Teams. Google Chrome is the recommended browser for best compatibility. Members of the public can also call into the meeting at (888) 585-9008 using the conference code 346-054-201.

The Draft 2020 RWSP has been developed in collaboration with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Suwannee River, St. Johns River and South Florida water management districts, public water supply utilities and other stakeholder groups. The District includes four planning regions that consist of all or part of 16 counties in west-central Florida, covering approximately 10,000 square miles.

The final plan will be presented to the District’s Governing Board for approval in November. To view the draft plan, please click here.

The Draft 2020 RWSP is in the process of being converted to an ADA compliant document. The Final 2020 RWSP will be ADA compliant. If you need assistance, please contact the District at (352) 796-7211 or 1-800-423-1476.

SWFWMD schedules prescribed fires in Hillsborough County

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Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency in 2017.

That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns June through September on the Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area (LHFDA) in Hillsborough County.

The LHFDA is located south of Cross Creek Boulevard between U.S. Highway 301 and Morris Bridge Road near Thonotosassa. Approximately 300 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants.
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat.
  • Maintaining access for public recreation.

View the video at the link below to see aerial footage from a prescribed fire in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve where District land management staff burned 320 acres.

Summer storms mean runoff, but you can help reduce its negative impacts

Editorial by Don Rainey, regional water agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Southwest District.

During seasonal storms in Florida, rain strikes surfaces such as rooftops, sidewalks and driveways, and within minutes, water will form puddles — and along comes stormwater runoff. At its core, stormwater is simply excess rainfall that does not infiltrate the ground or immediately evaporate back into the atmosphere.

Stormwater runoff uses the path of least resistance to reach its destination. It is a collection of rainfall from the surrounding hard surfaces, lawn and plant beds that flows above ground to a nearby body of water. Stormwater runoff is not just water. It transports nutrients from rainwater, sediment, and other materials found in the urban landscape.

As the runoff moves across saturated surfaces, it transports dissolved plant nutrients, possible pesticides, pet waste, sediment and other debris. Think of stormwater runoff as a soup, consisting of “ingredients” such as dissolved particulates and sometimes harmful pathogens that will move to a body of water. When concentration levels within this mixture exceed the ability for natural systems — such as ponds and wetlands — to utilize, absorb or break down pollutants, we must take steps to address the issue.

In some areas of Florida, stormwater runoff flows directly into a large body of water without treatment, immediately affecting the water quality. Untreated stormwater can negatively impact natural ecosystems for future generations.

Fortunately, a plant-based lawn and landscape not only help filter contaminants and remove sediment, they also provide an infiltration area to recharge the water supply.

As a homeowner, you can protect water quality by addressing runoff from your property. Simply start with your roof and driveway — usually the largest connected hard surface and runoff generator on your property. Redirect your downspouts to a rain bar