Water-Related News

TBEP awards Gulfport rain garden Golden Mangrove Award

A community garden project in Gulfport has been recognized for its excellence by a regional organization which helped fund it.

Participants in the Gulfport Sustainability Committee who came together to create a rain garden outside the Gulfport Recreation Center learned in early May the garden received the 2020 Golden Mangrove Award from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, who presents the award to “the most outstanding bay mini-grant project in each grant cycle.” The winners will accept the award in person May 27 at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, where they’ll provide a brief overview of the project.

“The Golden Mangrove Subcommittee, which is made up of Community Advisory Committee members, felt that your project encapsulated the true mission of the Bay Mini-Grant program – a grassroots community organization with a commitment to protect Tampa Bay coming together to successfully complete a small project,” a TBEP official stated. “The review committee felt there is no organization more deserving than the Gulfport Sustainability Committee to receive the award.”

City Councilmember April Thanos, one of the participants in the project, said it began in 2020 with an idea to repurpose a small area between the recreation center and 58th Street that was meant to be a retention area. She enlisted the help of Dana Parkinson, who wrote two grants that funded the project.

Tampa Bay’s future water supply likely to be river to tap

An impasse over a proposed groundwater project and the high cost of desalination limited the options.

CLEARWATER — Skimming and treating more from the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers and Tampa Bypass Canal emerged Monday as the leading choice to bolster the region’s future drinking water supply.

The plan — to expand the existing, 20-year-old surface water treatment plant in Tampa or build a brand new plant near the C.W. “Bill” Young Regional Reservoir — is the least costly of the three alternatives that had been under consideration by Tampa Bay Water. The regional utility has been studying ways to add 10 million gallons a day to the drinking water supply by 2028 to serve Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and the cities of New Port Richey, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The alternatives dwindled Monday when the Tampa Bay Water board of directors voted unanimously to shelve a plan to build new groundwater wells in southern Hillsborough. That proposal required Hillsborough County simultaneously injecting reclaimed water at sites near the coast to shield potential saltwater intrusion and to boost the underground water levels at the new well field several miles away.

SWFWMD to hold peer review of wetland-based criteria for minimum wetland and lake levels

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold an independent, scientific peer review of wetland-based criteria for use in establishing minimum wetland and lake levels beginning this month. A minimum level is the level of groundwater in an aquifer or the level of surface water at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area.

The review will be conducted by a three-member panel virtually via Microsoft Teams, teleconference and a web board established specifically for the peer review.

The meetings will take place:

  • May 23 at 9 a.m.
  • May 31 at 1 p.m.
  • June 6 at 1 p.m.
  • July 11 at 1 p.m.
  • July 18 at 1 p.m.

Members of the public can join the meetings virtually and register to use the web board to post comments regarding the peer review process. Links to the Teams meetings can be found on the District’s Boards, Meetings and Events calendar at WaterMatters.org/calendar. The web board will be open for posting comments through July 19, 2022, and open for viewing through June 30, 2023.

The draft documents on the wetland-based criteria to be considered by the panel will be made available on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/documents-and-reports. Based on findings of the peer review panel, District staff anticipate using the wetland criteria to support development of minimum levels that will be recommended to the District’s Governing Board for rule adoption to support water use regulation and water supply planning.

For more information regarding the scientific peer review, please contact Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead with the District’s Environmental Flows and Assessments Section at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4272.

United Nations offers free online freshwater water quality courses

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a range of new water quality monitoring and assessment courses on its eLearning platform, ahead of World Water Day on 22 March.

These free, online self-paced courses by the UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre (CDC) at the Environmental Research Institute at the University College Cork (UCC) are designed to complement the existing capacity development activities around water quality.

The courses provide a flexible learning approach for anyone interested in water quality or those who simply wish to know more about a particular aspect of managing and monitoring water quality without incurring the cost of a university-accredited course.

Current courses on offer include ‘An Introduction to Freshwater Quality Monitoring Programme Design’, ‘Quality Assurance for Freshwater Quality Monitoring’, ‘Water Quality Monitoring in Rivers and Lakes’ and ‘Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment of Groundwater,’ with further courses planned for release in 2022.

A range of other water quality monitoring and assessment offerings are available at the UNEP GEMS/Water CDC at UCC, including a university-accredited and certified online postgraduate diploma (PGDip), MSc, and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses.

See the UNEP GEMS/Water CDC webpage for further details.

Snook and redfish remain catch-and-release only through August

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Extension of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout regulations in SW Florida through August 31

The following regulatory measures in southwest Florida for Sarasota Bay through Gordon Pass in Collier County will be extended through August 31, 2022:

  • Snook and redfish will remain catch-and-release.
  • Normal regulations for recreational spotted seatrout harvest have resumed with the addition of a six-fish recreational vessel limit. Commercial harvest has also resumed but harvest is held to the recreational three-fish bag and six-fish vessel limits.
  • These regulations are for all state waters south of State Road 64 in Manatee County, including Palma Sola Bay, through Gordon Pass in Collier County but not including the Braden River or any tributaries of the Manatee River.

The Commission is currently considering long-term regulation changes for redfish, which could take effect when harvest re-opens on Sept. 1, 2022. Normal regulations for snook and seatrout will resume on Sept. 1.

The catch-and-release measures for snook, redfish and spotted seatrout in all waters from Sarasota Bay through Gordon Pass in Collier County were put in place as part of the response to the prolonged 2017-2019 red tide event.

Learn more about regulations for these species by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine and clicking on “Recreational Regulations.

What you need to know ahead of the seasonal fertilizer bans

Numerous local governments restrict fertilizer use each year through the end of September.

ST. PETERSBURG – Florida's annual summer rainy season is about to begin, and that means fertilizer bans are soon kicking in, too.

Across the Tampa Bay region, numerous fertilizer bans begin June 1 and run through Sept. 30.

Such policies are in place in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, along with the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Pasco County has a fertilizer ordinance in place year-round to help prevent pollution and also help preserve local water quality.

People can still use products with double zeroes on the fertilizer label and use plants that are Florida-friendly. You can find more tips on how to have a Florida-friendly landscape on the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences website.

Tampa City Council approves funding for infrastructure improvements

City officials say the work will create lasting improvements for years to come.

TAMPA – On Thursday, Tampa City Council members unanimously passed an agreement between the city and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. for $21 million.

It’s part of the first phase of the Foundation for Tampa’s Neighborhoods. The goal of the project is to bring water, wastewater, stormwater and roadway improvements to multiple neighborhoods within city limits.

Joyce Mitchelle has lived in the East Tampa area her whole life. She said she deals with water issues and roadway problems on a regular basis and so do her neighbors. She also said these infrastructure improvements are greatly needed.

“If they will do the full project and do it right, it will be great for the neighborhood and for the future kids of this generation," said Mitchelle.

The improvements will be made in East Tampa, Forest Hills, Macfarlane Park and Virginia Park. The work will begin in East Tampa and MacFarlane Park.

Deadline approaching for Tampa Bay Community Water Wise Awards entry

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From Doris Heitzmann, Pinellas County Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program Manager:

The Community Water Wise Awards Program is sponsored by Tampa Bay Water and was created to recognize individuals and businesses committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by implementing the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles. It is open to residents of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco Counties.

The Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ are:

  1. Right Plant, Right Place
  2. Water Efficiently
  3. Fertilize Appropriately
  4. Mulch
  5. Attract Wildlife
  6. Manage Yard Pests responsibly
  7. Recycle
  8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
  9. Protect the Waterfront

Most of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles are incorporated in the judging process for the Community Water Wise Awards program with focus on efficient water use in the landscape. The retention of trees and the overall design and aesthetics of the landscape are also taken into consideration. You may view photographs and watch short videos of past winners at https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/.

Who can apply?

The annual contest is open to landscapes from across the tri-county Tampa Bay region (includes Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough).

How to apply?

Entering is free, and only takes a few minutes. Potential applicants should visit https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/enter-your-landscape/ to fill out the brief online entry form.

The deadline for entries is Thursday, June 30. For questions contact Doris Heitzmann at dheitzmann@pinellascounty.org

To learn more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program and gardening related questions contact:

  • Pinellas County: Doris Heitzmann, 727-582-2110

FDEP invites stakeholders to participate in public meeting on TMDL prioritization

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To: All TMDL Stakeholders
From: Ansel Bubel, Environmental Administrator

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announces a public meeting beginning at 11 a.m. EDT on May 24, 2022, to receive comments on a proposed framework for prioritizing waters and setting two-year work plans for TMDL development. The framework will align with the statewide biennial assessment and will guide TMDL development for the next decade. Only the proposed priority setting process will be discussed at the public meeting. Another meeting will be held in the summer of 2022 to present the proposed TMDL development work plan for the next two years.

The May 24 meeting is scheduled at the following location, and via webinar:

2600 Blair Stone Road
Bob Martinez Center, Room 609
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Registration is open for the webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar. The meeting agenda and framework document are available online.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, any person requiring special accommodations to participate in this workshop is asked to advise the agency at least 48 hours before the workshop by contacting Johna Costantino at 850-245-7508. If you have a speech or hearing impairment, please contact the agency using the Florida Relay Service, 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).

A new study shows the Piney Point spill likely made red tide worse

The spill essentially "fed" red tide by dumping nitrogen into the waters, fueling algae blooms and killing millions of fish and marine life.

A new study shows that the wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay last year from the Piney Point phosphate plant likely made the subsequent outbreak of red tide much worse. It says a year's worth of nutrients flowed into the bay in 10 days.

The study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin shows that about 180 metric tons of nitrogen poured into the bay from a leak at the phosphate plant. Those nutrients fueled the growth of algae called cyanobacteria. It essentially "fed" red tide when it entered Tampa Bay from the Gulf several weeks later — killing millions of fish and marine life.

"What we think happened is because the nutrients were around, it was available for the red tide," said Marcus Beck of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, , the study's lead author. "It just created this set of conditions that prompted the growth of the red tide to levels that we hadn't really seen in the bay — in that part of the bay, specifically — since 1971."

Since Tampa Bay is considered a "closed system" with only one outlet into the Gulf of Mexico, he said that meant putting that much nitrogen into the system, it would fuel algae blooms.

"The level of red tide that we saw, the concentrations that we saw this year, that was very abnormal," Beck said, "and with Piney Point, it wasn't too much of a stretch to suggest that that was the causative factor that was likely stimulating the growth in the bay in July."

The state has approved a plan for the remaining water at Piney Point to be injected deep underground. But some fear a heavy hurricane season could cause the stack to overflow once again.

Highlights of the study:

  • 186 metric tons of total nitrogen from wastewater were added to Tampa Bay
  • An initial diatom bloom was observed near the release site
  • Filamentous cyanobacteria were observed at high biomass
  • Karenia brevis (red tide) was at high concentrations, co-occurring with fish kills
  • Seagrasses were unimpacted during the six-month study period

Piney Point Timeline

Water managers in ever-growing Southwest Florida work to ensure the drinking water supply is safe

Southwest Florida prepares to meet the future water needs as 1,000 people move into the Sunshine State every day. Access to drinkable water has already reached a crisis level in places worldwide, which nonprofits and celebrities are working to fix.

The lack of access to drinkable water is devastating communities around the world, and Southwest Florida's water managers are working to make sure the same thing never happens here.

“We turn on our tap and water just comes out of the faucet,” said Robert Lucius Jr., who oversees a 60,000-acre watershed that spans Lee and Collier counties.

“We don’t really give it much thought."

In other parts of the world, however, having water to drink is always on everyone's mind.

UNICEF found in 2020 that about one-quarter of the world’s population does not have a reliable source of drinking water at home, and half do not have properly working sanitation systems. In places, the demand for water is outpacing the growth rate two-fold. In Africa and Southeast Asia, the United Nations reports clean water is either scarce or completely unavailable.

The dearth of clean water is deadly. Nearly half of the roughly 2.2 billion people who struggle to find enough clean water to drink will die of thirst, disease caused by ingesting tainted water, or the unsanitary conditions that are becoming endemic in water-starved countries. The UN found that more people worldwide have access to a cell phone than do a toilet.

The World Water Council, World Resources Institute, and Global Water Leaders join charities like Water.org and charity: water in working in most of the drought-plagued places in the world. Kristen Bell, Jay-Z and Matt Damon are among a group of Hollywood heavyweights who have thrown their substantial clout behind the effort to ensure everyone on the planet has access to fresh water.

Bell raised almost $70,000 for charity: water, a New York nonprofit focused on providing drinking water to developing countries. Rapper Jay-Z created a documentary in 2007, “Diary of Jay-Z: Water For Life,” and worked with MTV and the UN to develop an clean-water advocacy campaign. Damon co-founded Water.org, which works to help families in struggling countries build sanitation systems and maintain a clean water supply.

“Access to water is access to education, access to work, access above all to the kind of future we want for our own families and all the members of our human family," Damon said on his organization's website. “You cannot solve poverty without solving water and sanitation.”

Increasing populations as well as climate change are but two of the things contributing to water woes, around the world and in Florida. More people mean more of a need for fresh water on a planet with a finite amount of it, and more than 1,000 people move into the Sunshine State every day. A warming planet means hotter air temperatures that increase evaporation, robbing reservoirs of drinking water.

The water woes in Southwest Florida are not nearly as bad as they are in other parts of the world, but not enough water still causes a host of problems in the region. Countless hours are spent by the region’s water managers divvying up the supply so the situation here doesn’t ever approach the struggles other parts of the world are having. And plans are being made now for decades in the future so water woes won’t sneak up on Southwest Florida’s residents.

Experts: Tampa Bay can be a leader in flood mitigation strategies

Tampa Bay has an opportunity to showcase a new way of mitigating storms and sea-level rise, according to out-of-town leaders hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Dozens of professionals in fields ranging from landscape architecture to hydrology convened in Tampa Bay for a three-part charrette that began last week. They mapped out flood solutions for North Tampa and Pass-A-Grille Beach; they will conclude in Oldsmar on Thursday and then return on June 23 for a symposium to discuss their findings.

Flooding is a long-term problem that the region can't ignore, said Andy Sternad, architect at New Orleans-based Waggoner & Ball. He appreciated that the regional planning council accommodated innovative solutions that — at least at the beginning of the process — ignore the restrictive permitting regulations currently in place.

Fishermen and scientists probe phosphate's connection to Florida red tides

Florida Commercial Waterman Conservation (FCWC) was founded in 2018.

A gap between real-time data and the academic resources that can steer policy inspired the idea to enlist fishermen, who have the holistic knowledge of the ocean, as data collectors, says Chris Kelble, director of the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

“Casey [Streeter] volunteered for a research cruise with me. The idea for the nonprofit stemmed from us sitting on the deck of the boat talking one night in between stations where we were taking water samples. He was instrumental in helping guide where to sample, because he knew exactly where the worst places were,” Kelble says. “Our goal this spring is to be able to communicate and let folks know about the likelihood of there being significant hypoxia. If there are excess nutrients coming off the land, this promotes red tide.”

FCWC is composed of half a dozen local volunteers and fishermen, in addition to Streeter. “We have mostly been focusing our testing in our immediate areas of southwest Florida,” he says, “but we did have a boat test off of Tampa during the red tide last year and as far north as Panama City. We would like to grow this program to all regions of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Spruce up your sprinkler system and save money

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Use these tips to reduce irrigation waste and avoid watering violations

A little maintenance goes a long way toward making your home irrigation (sprinkler) system work better and use water more efficiently, saving you money on your utility bills.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, homes with clock timer-controlled irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than homes without irrigation systems. Systems can waste even more if programmed incorrectly, if a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or if they have a leak.

Steps to spruce it up

You can spruce up your irrigation system in four simple steps: inspect, connect, direct, and select.

  • Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads
  • Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes or hoses. If water pools in your landscape or you have large wet areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak about as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (or 1/32nd of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  • Direct. Make sure to direct your sprinklers so that they apply water only to the landscape and not the driveway, house, or sidewalk
  • Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste water and money, and potentially cause you to violate water-use restrictions. Check your system's watering schedule and confirm your irrigation system operates at the allowable times. It is also important to use a rain shut-off device to bypass scheduled irrigation when it rains. During wet and cool months, you may be able to reduce scheduled irrigation frequency or duration, or occasionally manually run the system.

Report details climate change’s impact to Tampa Bay, says cost of doing nothing is dire

Sea-level rise threatens the more than three million people who live in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater metro areas — nearly five million in the entire region.

This week on Florida Matters, we explore climate change's impact in the Tampa Bay region and how some cities are planning to adapt.

Sea-level rise threatens the more than three million people who live in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater metro areas — and the nearly five million in the entire region.

So officials in St. Petersburg and Tampa have turned to multi-billion dollar solutions like raising buildings and building sea walls.

To find out more about the cities' plans, host Matthew Peddie spoke with Sharon Wright, the sustainability manager for the city of St. Petersburg, and Whit Remer, the sustainability and resilience officer for the city of Tampa, for the first half of the episode.

Later on, Peddie talks with Maya Burke, assistant director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, about the environmental impact of a changing climate on Tampa Bay and other waterways across the region.

You can listen to the full conversations by visiting the link below.

Climate change fueled extreme rainfall during the record 2020 hurricane reason

Human-induced climate change fueled one of the most active North Atlantic hurricane seasons on record in 2020, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

The study analyzed the 2020 season and the impact of human activity on climate change. It found that hourly hurricane rainfall totals were up to 10% higher when compared to hurricanes that took place in the pre-industrial era in 1850, according to a news release from Stony Brook University.

"The impacts of climate change are actually already here," said Stony Brook's Kevin Reed, who led the study. "They're actually changing not only our day-to-day weather, but they're changing the extreme weather events."

There were a record-breaking 30 named storms during the 2020 hurricane season. Twelve of them made landfall in the continental U.S.

These powerful storms are damaging and the economic costs are staggering.

Hurricanes are fueled in part by moisture linked to warm ocean temperatures. Over the last century, higher amounts of greenhouse gases due to human emissions have raised both land and ocean temperatures.

Sarasota researcher predicts 22 named storms, 5 major hurricanes in 2022

The Climate Adaptation Center, headed by researcher Bob Bunting, released its annual forecast for hurricane season on Friday.

SARASOTA — Tampa Bay residents have a tendency to brush aside concerns about hurricane season as annual forecasts arrive each spring.

Bob Bunting understands why so many are carefree: A major hurricane hasn’t struck the region in more than 100 years. But Bunting, a hurricane researcher and chief executive officer for the Climate Adaptation Center in Sarasota, says that’s a dangerous way to approach hurricane season any year, but especially as of late.

That’s because storm seasons are becoming longer and fiercer on average, he said, meaning Tampa Bay’s centurylong string of luck could end sooner rather than later. And, with the Climate Adaptation Center forecasting 2022 to be a seventh straight above-average season, the “big” storm could strike as soon as this year.

Tampa Bay Watch protects area shorelines one project at a time

Non-profit aims to protect Tampa Bay shorelines

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay’s waterways are not only vital to our economy but also the reason many of us call the bay area home. Its longevity is something we all play a part in, and Tampa Bay Watch is leading the charge to protect our shoreline.

The non-profit is dedicated exclusively to the protection and restoration of the marine and wetland environments of Tampa Bay using scientific and educational programs.

Director of Habitat Restoration Serra Herndon said the group's next project is underway at Lassing Park in St. Petersburg. Instead of using a man-made seawall to protect the shoreline at the park, Tampa Bay Watch is introducing a multi-year project to stop erosion. They are planning on using a three-layer approach that builds the shoreline up with oyster reef balls, bagged shell and 13-thousand square feet of salt marsh grass.

Tampa Bay Watch said the goal of using this approach aims to restore lost habitat by promoting new oyster growth, improve water quality and provide food sources and habitat for many species.