Water is essential to life, and in Florida, it is also an economic engine that fuels $94 billion in annual tourism spending and $12 billion in local and state sales, hotel, and excise taxes, according to Rockport Analytics LLC. When our waterways suffer, our economy suffers, too.
Historically, Florida’s water followed the barely perceptible downward slope of the peninsula, from north to south. A raindrop that falls into the Kissimmee River Valley finds itself in Lake Okeechobee. Along the water’s southerly route, plants and soil would soak up excess nutrients and minerals, a vital cleansing process that restored water quality.
What’s the problem?
We have built canals, levees, dikes, dams, and reservoirs, all hoping to get the right amount of clean, freshwater into the right places at the correct times. These efforts didn’t change only the quantity of the water. The water quality was affected, too, as tons of nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture and human development washed into the watershed. Toxic algae blooms have led to states of emergency that have closed beaches and restricted fishing over large sections of our east and west coasts.
Calusa Waterkeeper and ECCL have had ongoing discussions about managing nutrient runoff that has caused the impairment of Estero Bay and its tributaries. Many residential communities in Estero Bay’s watershed are unknowingly adding to the nutrient loads leading to the impairment that promotes harmful algal blooms, declines in seagrass coverage, and impacts property values.
One of our goals to reduce the nutrient runoff is to schedule several educational forums on best management practices hosted by ECCL and Calusa Waterkeeper. A related goal is to establish a working demonstration project to reduce nitrogen pollution and integrate the results into an existing residential community. The next step is a broader application to selected residential communities.
Pollution in our water is an existential problem. We can be part of the solution. Would you please join us as we work together to solve the problem of nutrient pollution in the Estero Bay watershed?
The forums will be announced in upcoming ECCL newsletters.