Water-Related News

Project to pinpoint sewage sources in Old Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay’s vanishing seagrass beds have raised concerns across the state, as experts grapple with how to restore the grasses that are critical to the health of Florida’s largest open-water estuary. Among the factors affecting the health of seagrass beds are high levels of nitrogen in the water, which contribute to harmful algal blooms or HABs. HABs can eclipse sunlight and starve the water of oxygen, leading to the loss of seagrass beds. With an award from the National Estuary Program (NEP), Assistant Professor Alberto Canestrelli, Ph.D., of the Civil and Coastal Engineering Department, is leading a project to pinpoint the main sources of nitrogen pollution from septic tanks down to a single household in Old Tampa Bay. This information will be used to help counties optimize the value of investments in septic to sewer upgrades.

Canestrelli’s team, including CCS Researcher Tricia Kyzar, Ph.D., and Yonggang Liu, Ph.D., associate professor with the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, will integrate groundwater and surface water models to pinpoint the primary sources of nutrient pollution from septic tanks in Pinellas and Hillsborough County. Using this analysis, the team will provide guidelines for county officials to determine the effects of septic tanks on water quality and create an impact ranking of all septic systems in Hillsborough and Pinellas County. The two counties will allocate funds to prioritize the conversion of septic tanks to sewer lines in low-income households, factoring in the impact rankings and financial feasibility for residents.

“The key here is coupling two models to predict the load from septic all the way to the estuary going through groundwater and surface water, and creating these impact indexes that tells you which are the households that will most affect the estuary’s water quality,” said Canestrelli. “The single components are not novel by themselves, but as a whole, it’s something that has not been done.”

The project team will share their findings and the potential to apply this technology to other estuarine regions at the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Conference (GOMCON). Counties will locally amplify outreach efforts by crafting and mailing a one-page informational flyer about septic conversion to residents.

The project kicked off at the end of September 2023 and will continue for two years, with impacts ranging from attitude changes through outreach to residents, to the long-term improvement of water quality in Tampa Bay and an expected bounce back in seagrass coverage.

Port Tampa Bay proposes giant recycling project

As giant cranes are building a new eight-lane span of the Howard Frankland bridge in Old Tampa Bay, an artificial island just east of the bridge in Hillsborough Bay is known globally as a significant bird nesting site.

Called 2D, it was originally built between 1978 and 1982 as a spoil island to store the soil and sand dredged from the bay bottom to create the shipping channel that accommodates the nearly 5,800 ships that traverse Tampa Bay every year. Surrounded by 29-foot containment dikes with a bowl-shaped interior where dredged materials can be pumped and stored, 2D is home to thousands of nesting birds including oystercatchers that are state-listed as a threatened species.

But like many of the coastal lands in Tampa Bay, ship wakes are severely eroding the western shoreline that’s adjacent to the shipping channel. Over the course of a year, these ship wakes generate roughly 100,000 joules per meter of cumulative wake energy, which is equivalent to the energy of a compact car traveling at 67 miles per hour slamming onto the shore. This destructive wave energy is washing away some of the critical habitats that beach-nesting birds depend upon, which is where the Howard Frankland construction comes in.

Once the new span is finished late next year, the original span – built in 1959 – will be demolished, leaving an estimated four million tons of concrete that will need to be disposed of. Port Tampa Bay has proposed barging 150-foot sections to build a series of breakwaters 500 feet off 2D that will minimize those damaging wakes on the island, creating calmer waters for seagrasses and a wider beach for nesting birds.

MarineQuest School Daze registration opens Dec. 6th

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Voyage into science at MarineQuest School Daze, part of the annual open house of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI). This fun, free, hands-on field trip provides students in grades four through eight with an opportunity to learn about the exciting world of fish and wildlife research in Florida.

  • The School Daze program takes place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, February 8th and 9th.
  • The MarineQuest Open House is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 10th.
  • Both MarineQuest School Daze and Open House will take place at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute, 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg.
  • The St. Petersburg Science Festival is held in conjunction with the MarineQuest Open House, at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, next door to FWRI. 
  • Event parking is downtown at the SouthCore parking garage, located at 101 1st Avenue South. A free shuttle will transport visitors to the event entrance. There will be a limited number of handicap parking spaces available near the event entrance, on 1st Street South between 6th Avenue South and 8th Avenue South.

During the School Daze program, FWRI scientists will set up individual "stations" both inside the main facility and in the outside parking lot. Each station focuses on one of FWRI's research projects. Through interactive activities students will have the opportunity to play the role of scientist and learn a bit about the daily activities of FWRI's staff. Past station topics have included fisheries research in Tampa Bay and the Florida Keys, genetics, bats, sharks and rays, seagrass, manatees, coastal wetlands, corals, microscopy, red tide, and technology in science.

Each student group will have the opportunity to visit a selection of these stations. Each group's tour schedule will be pre-determined ahead of its visit. FWRI staff will act as class tour guide.

Miss a station during your tour? Don't worry! Almost all stations will also be open during the MarineQuest Open House on Saturday!

Teachers, visit this page to register your class (registration opens Dec. 6th, 2023)

EPA proposes revising certain water quality standards for Florida’s waters

ATLANTA – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule to establish new and revised federal water quality standards (WQS) for the state of Florida based on the latest scientific knowledge about protecting human health.

“EPA continues to take strong action to ensure that our nation’s waters are safe for all,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This proposed rule, if finalized, would update water quality standards for Florida’s water bodies to reflect the current science and continue to protect the health of Floridians.”

Under the Clean Water Act, state governments, or EPA, when necessary, set limits (called “human health criteria”) for pollutants in water bodies that pose risks to human health through the consumption of drinking water or locally caught fish and shellfish. EPA is proposing new or revised criteria for a total of 73 priority toxic pollutants.

On December 1, 2022, EPA issued an Administrator’s Determination that Florida’s current standards – last updated in 1992 – do not reflect the latest science or the current habits of Floridians. Since 1992, national and regional data have become available that indicate greater levels of fish consumption, particularly among residents of coastal states like Florida. In addition, Florida does not have human health criteria for 37 pollutants that are likely to be in its waters. New data have become available since 1992 on the specific toxic pollutants that are likely to be present in Florida’s waters, and how those pollutants may impact Florida’s designated uses. EPA’s proposed rule accounts for more recent evidence on fish consumption rates and, as a result, proposes criteria that are more protective of Floridians that consume fish caught in the state.

In addition, EPA’s rule proposes criteria to protect subsistence fishers in and around Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve where Tribes hold reserved rights to fish for subsistence.

The Agency will accept comments on this proposal for 60 days upon publication in the Federal Register. EPA will also hold two online public hearings on this proposal. Learn more about the proposed rule and public hearings.

Tampa Water Department to evaluate lead pipes in city after EPA proposal to replace them nationwide

TAMPA – Cities across the nation are inspecting the pipes that go from their water treatment plants to people’s homes, and out of their faucets.

The City of Tampa Water Department says it has been surveying its pipes since 2021 after a $15 billion infrastructure law was passed to replace lead pipes.

"To gather this data of what the lines are made of, we’re gathering historical information, so there’s a lot of information that we have already that we’ve collected over the years, construction records, plumbing regulations of when lead was banned here in the city of Tampa," said Sonia Quinones, a spokesperson for the Tampa Water Department.

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency issued lead and copper rule improvements, providing additional guidance for the revised rule that came out in 2021.

There are a lot of old homes in Tampa, but the water department says most homeowners should not be too concerned, because of the way the city treats its water before it makes its way to your faucet and into your glass to drink.

Florida discontinues manatee winter feeding program after seagrass conditions improve

Wildlife officials say a two-year experimental feeding program for starving Florida manatees will not immediately resume this winter as conditions have improved for the threatened marine mammals and the seagrass on which they depend.

A two-year experimental feeding program for starving Florida manatees will not immediately resume this winter as conditions have improved for the threatened marine mammals and the seagrass on which they depend, wildlife officials said.

Thousands of pounds of lettuce were fed to manatees that typically gather in winter months near the warm-water discharge of a power plant on Florida's east coast. State and federal wildlife officials launched the program after pollution killed off vast seagrass beds, leading to a record of over 1,100 manatee deaths in 2021.

This season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the seagrass has started to recover in key winter foraging areas on the east coast, and that there appear to be fewer manatees in poor physical condition going into the stressful colder months.

“After careful consideration, the agencies are not providing manatees with a supplemental food source at the beginning of the winter season,” the FWC said Friday in a notice on its website. “However, staff developed a contingency plan which they will implement if needed.”

Last year, more than 400,000 pounds (181,000 kilograms) of lettuce, most of it donated, was fed to manatees near the power plant in Cocoa, Florida.

Timetable to replace lead water pipes could be accelerated

The Environmental Protection Agency said Florida has the most lead water lines in the nation.

TAMPA — Lead exposure in children is still a problem.

Experts said it can come from paint in older homes or aging water pipes.

Pediatrician Dr. Rachel Dawkins is with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

She said there is added danger for children, whose brains and nervous systems are growing and developing, so any exposure to lead can be concerning.

“We think about lead exposure in kids causing neurodevelopment disabilities, so it might cause some problems with learning. Some problems with behavior. It can cause lower IQs,” said Dawkins.

Many cities have older water pipes made from lead.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a new rule that would require them to be replaced within ten years.

That’s speeding progress toward a goal from the Biden Administration to remove all lead pipes.

Gulf Stream weakening now 99% certain, and ramifications will be global

A new analysis has concluded that the Gulf Stream is definitely slowing, but whether it's due to climate change is hard to tell.

The Gulf Stream is almost certainly weakening, a new study has confirmed.

The flow of warm water through the Florida Straits has slowed by 4% over the past four decades, with grave implications for the world's climate.

The ocean current starts near Florida and threads a belt of warm water along the U.S. East Coast and Canada before crossing the Atlantic to Europe. The heat it transports is essential for maintaining temperate conditions and regulating sea levels.

But this stream is slowing down, researchers wrote in a study published Sept. 25 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"This is the strongest, most definitive evidence we have of the weakening of this climatically-relevant ocean current," lead-author Christopher Piecuch, a physical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in a statement.

The Gulf Stream is just a small component of the thermohaline circulation — a global conveyor belt of ocean currents that moves oxygen, nutrients, carbon and heat around the planet, while also helping to control sea levels and hurricane activity.

USF survey finds that many homeowners don't realize they're unprotected from flooding risks

The USF St. Petersburg study showed that 73% of the 1,667 residents polled mistakenly believe that they have flood insurance, while less than 5% actually have coverage.

A new survey by researchers from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Customer Experience Lab found that most U.S. homeowners remain unprotected from floods.

In addition, it found that there are varying risk perceptions among different age groups.

The annual report, made in collaboration with Neptune Flood Insurance, showed that 73% of the 1,667 residents polled mistakenly believed that they had flood insurance.

The St. Petersburg-based Neptune is the country's largest private flood insurance provider.

Despite flooding being among the most common natural disasters in the United States — causing an average of $5 billion in damage each year — less than 5% of the homeowners polled actually have flood insurance.

52.6% of respondents said that flood risk was a minor factor in their home purchase decision, while 23.6% said it was a major factor.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly one in five homes in the United States will experience a flood during a 30-year mortgage.

The study suggests that many homeowners perceive purchasing flood insurance to be confusing, which could relate to the fact that, until recently, theNational Flood Insurance Program was the only provider and educational source for homeowners for over five decades.

Sea turtle nests break records on US beaches, but global warming threatens their survival

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Just as they have for millions of years, sea turtles by the thousands made their labored crawl from the ocean to U.S. beaches to lay their eggs over the past several months. This year, record nesting was found in Florida and elsewhere despite growing concern about threats from climate change.

In Florida, preliminary state statistics show more than 133,840 loggerhead turtle nests, breaking a record set in 2016. Same for green turtles, where the estimate of at least 76,500 nests is well above the previous mark set in 2017.

High sea turtle nest numbers also have been reported in South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia, although not all set records like Florida, where Justin Perrault, vice president of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, said the number of nests is remarkable this year.

“We had more nests than we had ever seen before on our local beaches,” said Perrault, whose organization monitors Palm Beach County and broke a local record by 4,000 nests. “That’s quite a bit of nesting.”

There are seven species of sea turtles: loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, olive ridley and flatback. All are considered either endangered or threatened. They come ashore on summer nights, digging pits in the sand and depositing dozens of eggs before covering them up and returning to the sea. Florida beaches are one of the most important hatcheries for loggerheads in the world.

Only about one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings live to adulthood. They face myriad natural threats, including predators on land and in the ocean, disruptions to nests and failure to make it to the water after hatching. This year along one stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast where 75 nests had been counted, most were wiped out by the surge from Hurricane Idalia in August.

“Unfortunately, the nests pre-Idalia were almost all lost due to the high tides and flooding on our barrier islands,” said Carly Oakley, senior turtle conservation biologist at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

What does an El Niño winter mean for Florida red tide?

Florida’s west coast has dodged a red tide outbreak so far this fall. But researchers say warm waters and extra rainfall this winter could fuel a bloom if the algae does appear.

Florida’s Gulf Coast is approaching the end of an above-average hurricane season and record marine heat, but it’s been a lackluster fall for what’s become a common beachgoers’ experience: red tide.

Last year, Tampa Bay-area red tide outbreaks started in November and lasted through the winter. The toxic algae kept many people off local beaches and resulted in a series of fish kills.

But this fall’s absence of Karenia brevis, the algae that causes red tide, has puzzled researchers.

An El Niño weather pattern, like the ongoing one, usually brings more rainfall to the Southeast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a 70% chance of above-average rainfall there this winter.

In Florida, that can mean more rainwater mixes with nutrients and becomes polluted before it dumps into waterways such as Tampa Bay, the Caloosahatchee River and Sarasota Bay, among others along the Gulf of Mexico.

Tampa promotes water conservation with water-efficient landscape competition

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Mayor Recognizes Homeowners for their Water-Wise Landscape

As the Tampa community prepares for stricter irrigation rules due to the regional water shortage, Mayor Jane Castor is honoring two Tampa homeowners for their water-efficient landscape.

This year’s Community Water Wise Award will be presented to homeowners Brian Bachleda and Daniel Hoeh who live in South Tampa. The annual competition recognizes attractive, healthy, water-wise landscapes across Tampa Bay. It is organized by the Tampa Water Department, Tampa Bay Water, and its regional partners, in collaboration with UF/IFAS Extension.

The announcement comes ahead of new water restrictions placed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, impacting homeowners in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties. Starting December 1, residents will only be allowed to irrigate once a week on their designated watering days. This is a change from the current enforceable twice-a-week watering restriction and will require all users with automated systems to adjust their irrigation controls.

"As our population grows and the demand for water in Tampa increases, it is more important than ever to conserve water and protect this precious resource," said Mayor Jane Castor. "As the Southwest Florida Water Management District has made clear this week, the water shortage is not to be taken lightly and we must take swift steps to address this issue that affects all of us."

On Tuesday, November 21, 2023, Mayor Castor will tour the award-winning landscape and present Brian and Daniel with the 2023 Community Water Wise Award, which is a custom mosaic steppingstone created by local artist, Heather Richardson. The media is invited to see this award presentation and visit the award-winning landscape.

Judges found that Brian and Daniel’s landscape incorporated the 9 principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ including "water efficiently." The other eight include: right plant, right place, fertilize appropriately, mulch, attract wildlife, manage yard pests responsibly, recycle, reduce stormwater runoff, and protect the waterfront.

According to UF/IFAS, Florida homeowners use an average of 991 gallons of water every time they irrigate. Brian and Daniel were able to reduce their landscape’s water use to around 800 gallons for the entire month.

The Tampa Water Department provides free water conservation resources, information, and devices to customers. The Water Department’s conservation team also offers webinars and workshops on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, Tampa’s water use restrictions, and other water conservation topics. Information on upcoming events can be found on Tampa.gov/Water/Outreach.

TBRPC secures $1M EPA grant to launch Clean Air Tampa Bay Climate Action Program

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TAMPA BAY – Severe weather events and climate-related challenges increase public health concerns, negatively impact the environment, and deteriorate local infrastructure. In response to these pressing issues, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) has secured nearly $1 million in non-competitive grant funding. This funding, awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August of this year under the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) program, will fund the development and implementation of a Climate Action Plan to reduce harmful emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

The TBRPC is taking the lead in the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) to create the first regional Climate Action Plan for the Tampa Bay area, named “Clean Air Tampa Bay.” This plan will produce a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, GHG emissions projections, GHG reduction targets, and an analysis of benefits for low-income and disadvantaged communities. Over the course of this 4- year program, 36 local jurisdictions within Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties, municipalities, and metropolitan planning organizations can become eligible to apply for a share of the $4.3 billion in implementation grants available nationwide. This initiative will provide consistent regional data to project GHG emissions trends and prioritize emissions reduction projects throughout the region, as well as push for multi-jurisdictional collaborations.

The Clean Air Tampa Bay team comprises the TBRPC, the University of South Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability, ICLEI, and the Sustany Foundation. This team is not only engaging the MSA jurisdictions and interagency partners but is also actively involving the public in the development of this Climate Action Plan. The Clean Air Tampa Bay team has started collaborating with jurisdictions and interagency partners to collect data, set goals, and prioritize projects. The team has also started engaging with community members on best practices to create an effective community engagement strategy that can be replicated with any organization. Through this project, Clean Air Tampa Bay is prioritizing community engagement by hosting public meetings to collect insights and address needs, with a special focus on low-income and disadvantaged areas.

Through collaboration among citizens, public agencies, and the private sector, the region will be better equipped to make informed decisions and progress toward a cleaner, more resilient future.

To learn more about this project and get involved, visit: cleanairtb.org.

Many Floridians with private wells don’t know how to take care of them

Approximately 12% of Florida’s population rely on a private well for drinking water, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

That’s about 2.5 million people. Bithlo resident Tara Turner, 50, is one of them.

After years of relying on wells for drinking water, Turner feels quite comfortable maintaining her own well today, which sets her apart from the estimated one-third of Florida well users who don’t know how to care for their wells properly, according to UF/IFAS research.

Dr. Yilin Zhuang, an environmental engineer at UF/IFAS focused on studying water resources, is working with her colleagues to expand Floridians' understanding of well safety, maintenance and testing. She leads public webinars, shares research findings, and is currently compiling resources for a website to help private well owners, which she expects to launch sometime next year.

Zhuang says ultimately, the burden falls on private well users — not a public utility — to ensure their water system is working safely and properly.

“When it comes to private well users, there are just not that many regulations,” Zhuang said. “So it all relies on private well users to manage their wells, and make sure their drinking water is safe to drink.”

Sinkhole opens under Busch Gardens wastewater pond, dumps 2.5 million gallons below

Theme park employees discovered the spill and sinkhole in the early morning hours on Nov. 18. Now, a professional geologist is monitoring the situation.

TAMPA — A sinkhole recently opened under a wastewater treatment pond at Busch Gardens, dumping an estimated 2.5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the earth below, according to state environmental regulators and a theme park spokesperson.

Busch Gardens employees discovered the 15-foot-by-15-foot sinkhole in the early morning hours Nov. 18. The sinkhole opened in the last of a train of three ponds used in the park’s on-site wastewater treatment process, according to Brian Humphreys, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

After finding the sinkhole, Busch Gardens closed a low dam connecting the second and third treatment pond, but not before enough wastewater to fill nearly four Olympic swimming pools dumped to the ground below. That dam between ponds remained closed as of Friday, Humphreys said.

The wastewater pond with the sinkhole is located a few hundred feet northwest of the popular water ride Congo River Rapids, according to coordinates of the spill provided by the park.

Dade City $1.75M in federal funding to relocate, upgrade wastewater treatment plant

DADE CITY – A long in-the-works effort to move Dade City’s wastewater treatment plant out of the Mickens-Harper neighborhood got some momentum Wednesday.

The city received $1.75 million for the project from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“I was super excited because this has been a goal for the commission and the city for so many years,” said City Manager Leslie Porter.

“The city recognized that was an environmental justice issue, putting that plant back there in the 1950s in a historic African-American neighborhood,” she said.

According to Porter, the city commission has talked about moving the plant since 2011, but funding has been an issue.

She said money was included for the project in last year’s budget, but that was later vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Go slow, look out below when on the water this Manatee Awareness Month

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is sharing the reminder that November is Manatee Awareness Month, a critical time for boaters to be on the lookout for manatees as they travel to warmer water sites around the state.

Manatees need to access water that is warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive the winter. As temperatures start to dip in the fall, manatees travel to Florida springs, power plant discharge areas and other warm-water sites to overwinter until temperatures rise again in the spring.

Manatees, though large, can be challenging to see in the water. Boaters and watercraft operators can better spot manatees by wearing polarized glasses, going slow and abiding by all manatee protection zones. During colder months, seasonal manatee zones require boaters and personal watercraft users to reduce speed in or avoid certain areas to prevent collisions that can injure or kill manatees. Manatee protection zones are marked by waterway signs; maps of these zones are available online at MyFWC.com/MPZ.

Boat strikes are a major threat to Florida manatees and FWC law enforcement officers patrol state waters, educating boaters about seasonal manatee speed zones and taking appropriate enforcement actions when necessary. Boaters and personal watercraft users are reminded to comply with the regulatory signs on waterways.

When viewing manatees as they congregate at warm-water sites, it is important to give them space. Disturbing manatees at these sites can cause them to swim out of protected areas and into potentially life-threatening cold water. Manatees are a protected species and it is illegal to harass, feed, disturb or harm them.

If you see an injured, distressed, sick or dead manatee, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) so that trained responders can assist. Do not try to physically handle an injured or sick manatee yourself, which can cause more harm to the animal and potentially put you at risk of serious injury.

SWFWMD declares Modified Phase I Water Shortage, limits some counties to once a week irrigation


Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties will be limited to once-per-week lawn watering beginning Dec. 1

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board voted today to declare a Modified Phase I Water Shortage due to ongoing dry conditions throughout the region and increasing water supply concerns.

The restrictions apply to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties; portions of Charlotte, Highlands and Lake counties; the City of Dunnellon and The Villages in Marion County; and the portion of Gasparilla Island in Lee County from Nov. 21, 2023 through July 1, 2024.

The District received lower than normal rainfall during its summer rainy season and currently has a 9.2-inch districtwide rainfall deficit compared to the average 12-month total. In addition, water levels in the District’s water resources, such as aquifers, rivers and lakes, are beginning to decline.

The Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order does not change allowable watering schedules for most counties, however it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use and twice-per-week lawn watering schedules remain in effect except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments. Residents are asked to check their irrigation systems to ensure they are working properly. This means testing and repairing broken pipes and leaks, and fixing damaged or tilted sprinkler heads. Residents should also check their irrigation timer to ensure the settings are correct and the rain sensor is working properly.

However, as of Dec. 1, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties will be limited to once-per-week lawn watering. These additional restrictions are needed because Tampa Bay Water, which supplies water to most of the three-county area, was unable to completely refill the 15-billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir this summer due to the lower-than-normal rainfall.

Once-per-week lawn watering days and times are as follows unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect (Citrus, Hernando and Sarasota counties, and the cities of Dunedin and Venice, have local ordinances that remain on one-day-per-week schedules):

If your address (house number) ends in...

  • ...0 or 1, water only on Monday
  • ...2 or 3, water only on Tuesday
  • ...4 or 5, water only on Wednesday
  • ...6 or 7, water only on Thursday
  • ...8 or 9*, water only on Friday
    * and locations without a discernible address
  • Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties under two acres in size may only water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties two acres or larger may only water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Low-volume watering of plants and shrubs (micro-irrigation, soaker hoses, hand watering) is allowed any day and any time.

The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District. The District also continues to work closely with Tampa Bay Water to ensure a sustainable water supply for the Tampa Bay region.

For additional information about the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order, visit the District’s website WaterMatters.org/Restrictions. For water conserving tips, visit WaterMatters.org/Water101.

One stack capped, three to go after $75 million spent following Piney Point disaster

MANATEE COUNTY – Before the Piney Point stack rupture nearly three years ago, there was a lot of finger pointing, but very little progress toward closing it.

$75 million later, one out of four stacks is capped and the court-appointed receiver assigned to close Piney Point is hopeful the process is on schedule moving forward.

The end of next March will mark three years since stack water spewed into the environment through a breach in what is known as “new gyp stack south.”

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) then decided to release 215 million gallons into the bay to relieve pressure on the structure.

Herb Donica was appointed by the court two years ago to close Piney Point with as little environmental impact as possible. He took 8 On Your Side to the top of the four stacks that rise above Manatee County.

Old gyp stack south is now filled with layers of liner material and sand, topped off with grass and equipped with a drainage system that routes storm water one direction and potentially contaminated water into a retention pond.

Keeping Florida coastlines and oceans a key part of the economy is threatened by climate change

The Florida Ocean Alliance submitted a plan to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the legislature to help strengthen resilience and protection of the state's coastlines.

Florida's coastal counties generate about two-thirds of the state's economy. But keeping the parts of that economy that are dependent on the ocean and bays stable is becoming a challenge.

It's called the "Blue Economy." But rising seas and warming oceans are threatening parts of that economic web. That was the takeaway from a conference held last week at Tampa's port by the Florida Ocean Alliance.

The Alliance serves as a clearinghouse for information on ocean and coastal issues facing the state. The group's president, Glenn Wiltshire - deputy director of Port Everglades - said last year, they submitted a list of priorities to the governor and Legislature to strengthen coastal resilience.

"Our recommendations focused on coastal resilience and improving water and habitat quality, coastal community hazard preparedness, natural resource protection - the foundation of Florida's blue economy - and implementation of a strategic plan for Florida's oceans and coasts.," he said.

Wiltshire says the group will continue working with lawmakers to fund projects that strengthen resilience along the state's coastlines.