Water-Related News

Photographer: Inland development is destroying Florida–s coastal freshwater wetlands

The object of Benjamin Dimmitt's pictorial and editorial attention has deteriorated significantly over the last few decades.

With the exception of its northern border with Alabama and Georgia, Florida is entirely surrounded by water. The state’s world famous sandy beaches make up about 825 miles of that coastline, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But wetlands comprise several hundred more miles of the Florida coast. And contrary to popular belief, the majority of those wetlands are not salt water, but fresh water. Their source is the outflow from the gigantic Floridan Aquifer that underlies Florida. But as Florida’s population has grown, the size and condition of those wetlands seems to be on the decline. That’s the subject of a new book by noted naturalist and photographer Benjamin Dimmitt. It’s entitled: “An Unflinching Look: Elegy for Wetlands.” In it he documents – in both words and images – the profound changes in the Chassahowitzka National Refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

USF’s ‘Flood Hub’ is helping the state look into resiliency needs

Resilience in the face of increasingly extreme weather is on the minds this week of those attending the annual Gulf of Mexico Alliance Conference in Tampa. And much of the work on resiliency will be done at the University of South Florida.

Many of us have heard the warnings about coastal flooding increasing because of strengthening storms and hurricanes. But before work can be done to address resilience in the face of these threats, we have to know what roads, buildings and utilities are at risk.

That's where the new Florida Flood Hub comes in. It was recently established at the USF College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg.

Once it is fully operational, Wes Brooks - Florida's chief resilience officer - says the hub will identify what's most vulnerable to flooding statewide.

“I believe that Florida will be the first state in the country - and certainly the largest for some time, I would suspect - to have assessed the flood vulnerability of virtually every single piece of infrastructure and critical asset that there is with the state's borders,” Brooks said.

Brooks told conference members that the hub will be a central repository for flood models and information.

“Once fully operational, the flood hub will also provide a statewide picture of flood risk in a clear and consistent manner that can be used for transparent and fair decision making,” he said, “while also significantly lowering the technical burden on local governments - like here in Tampa - to incorporate forward-looking flood data and municipal planning.”

Brooks adds that more than 230 planning grants have been awarded to counties and cities throughout the state.

Speakers at the conference also said the work will become critical as extreme weather becomes the "new normal."

Report: Florida received D– in coastal management and sea level rise preparations

The Surfrider Foundation took a look at how states are preparing for sea level rise, erosion and future infrastructure.

Florida's beaches span hundreds of miles, providing entertainment and an escape for folks to relax.

But our coastlines are under nearly constant threat, and according to a new report by The Surfrider Foundation, our beaches are degrading more and more every year.

The Surfrider Foundation took a look at how states are preparing for sea level rise, erosion, and future infrastructure.

The foundation's latest report shows that Florida decreased from a C– in 2022 to a D– in 2023 for these categories.

Local scientists attribute the issues to rising sea levels and more intense storms.

The Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory panel predicts that the Tampa Bay Area could experience sea level rise of up to 2.5 feet by 2050.

"We have choices to adapt or to maladapt," said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

New proposal would allow for water line extensions in rural Hillsborough County

ODESSA – A new proposal would allow water and wastewater line connections in rural areas of Hillsborough County.

County planners say concerns from stakeholders are part of what’s inspiring a change to a current policy that only allows for wells and septic tanks.

“These changes are based on some concerns that were raised about the impacts of septic tanks, particularly concentrating a large number of septic tanks to one area,” said Melissa Zornitta, Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission.

Hillsborough County’s current policy only allows water line extensions to rural areas under certain conditions.

“If there is a health issue like somebody’s well has gone bad or if there’s a school in the area,” Zornitta shared.

Odessa’s Keystone community is one location that would be affected. Resident Melissa Nordbeck fears the change would lead developers to build more projects.

Crucial system of ocean currents is heading for a collapse due to climate change

A vital system of ocean currents could collapse within a few decades if the world continues to pump out planet-heating pollution, scientists are warning – an event that would be catastrophic for global weather and “affect every person on the planet.”

A new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature, found that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current – of which the Gulf Stream is a part – could collapse around the middle of the century, or even as early as 2025.

Scientists uninvolved with this study told CNN the exact tipping point for the critical system is uncertain, and that measurements of the currents have so far showed little trend or change. But they agreed these results are alarming and provide new evidence that the tipping point could occur sooner than previously thought.

The AMOC is a complex tangle of currents that works like a giant global conveyor belt. It transports warm water from the tropics toward the North Atlantic, where the water cools, becomes saltier and sinks deep into the ocean, before spreading southwards.

It plays a crucial role in the climate system, helping regulate global weather patterns. Its collapse would have enormous implications, including much more extreme winters and sea level rises affecting parts of Europe and the US, and a shifting of the monsoon in the tropics.

Reclaimed water service restored to northwest Hillsborough County

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UPDATE – Feb. 8, 2024 – Customers Can Now Irrigate Using Reclaimed Water

Hillsborough County Water Resources has repaired the issue at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility, and reclaimed water has been restored for customers in the northwest area of the county.

The issue caused the shutdown of reclaimed water used for irrigation for customers residing west of Interstate 275 and just south of Van Dyke Road, including the neighborhoods of Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila. The issue never affected drinking water.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 307-1000.

Map of the affected area »

Original notices follow

UPDATE – Jan. 31, 2024 – Issue impacts irrigation water; drinking water is safe to drink and use

Hillsborough County Water Resources crews continue to work on the issue at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility that has impacted the use of reclaimed water for some customers in the northwest area of the county.

At this time, reclaimed water in northwest Hillsborough County continues to be shut down for customers who reside west of Interstate 275 and just south of Van Dyke Road. The larger neighborhoods affected include Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila. An estimated 11,000 homes are impacted.

Hillsborough County Water Resources reminds residents that this outage only impacts the reclaimed water used for irrigation. This does not affect drinking water. Drinking water is safe for everyone to use and drink. Residential customers in the impacted area won't be able to use reclaimed water until repairs are complete, and the sprinkler systems on reclaimed water will not function while repairs continue.

Hillsborough County Water Resources will provide an update as soon as it's available.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 307-1000.

Residents in neighborhoods such as Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila are affected

Hillsborough County Water Resources is reporting that reclaimed water in northwest Hillsborough County is not available at this time due to a problem at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility.

Reclaimed water - which is used for irrigation -- in northwest Hillsborough County has been shut down for customers who reside west of Interstate 275 and just south of Van Dyke Road. The larger neighborhoods affected include Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila. An estimated 11,000 residential homes are impacted.

Crews are on-site addressing the situation and anticipate having the repairs completed this week (Jan. 29-Feb. 2).

Hillsborough County Water Resources emphasizes that this impacts the reclaimed water used for irrigation at these residential homes. This does not affect drinking water. Drinking water is safe for everyone to use and drink. Residential customers in the impacted area won't be able to use reclaimed water until repairs are complete, and the sprinkler systems on reclaimed water will not function.

Hillsborough County Water Resources will provide an update on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 307-1000.

Tampa Bay Water: More conservation is needed as spring dry-season approaches

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CLEARWATER – El Niño rainfall, cooler weather and watering restrictions have helped lower water use in the Tampa Bay area; however, the region remains in a Stage 1 Drought Alert with the driest months of the year fast-approaching.

Tampa Bay Water asks residents to continue water-thrifty habits into March, April and May, which are the driest months of the year in Tampa Bay.

Residents should not overwater this spring and only water on their designated day. Outdoor watering in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties is limited to one-day-per-week per the Southwest Florida Water Management District water shortage order that took effect on Dec. 1, 2023. Residents can find their watering day by simply entering their zip codes at MyWaterDay.org.

Other ways to save water include:

  • Smart Lawn Watering: By skipping an irrigation cycle when it rains or has rained, you can save between 1,500 and 2,500 gallons of water.
  • Leak Detection: The average family can waste 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually, from household leaks.
  • Toilet Flapper Check: A warped or poorly fitting flapper can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day and may cost you hundreds of dollars a year.
  • Turn Off the Tap: Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day.
  • Maximize Dishwasher and Laundry Loads: Running the dishwasher only when it's full can save the average family nearly 320 gallons of water annually.
  • Hose Nozzle Usage: Using a hose nozzle saves about 8 gallons per minute by keeping the water from running constantly.
  • Fix Broken Sprinklers: A broken sprinkler can waste 25,000 gallons of water in six months.
  • Get rebates for water-efficient upgrades: Install water efficient fixtures and technology and receive rebates through the Tampa Bay Water Wise program.

Regional water facts as of Feb. 1, 2024:

  • The region remains in a Stage 1 Drought Alert due to an 8.3-inch rainfall deficit averaged over the past 12 months.
  • Rainfall in January averaged about 2.7 inches, 0.2 inches below normal.
  • Average river flows are in a 9.1 million gallons per day (mgd) deficit when looking at the past 12 months. When river flows are lower, less water is available to support the regional surface water system.
  • Regional water demands in January averaged 186.77 mgd 7.43 mgd higher than January 2023, but 4.38 mgd lower than demands in December 2023.
  • The C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir is at 7.1 billion gallons, 46% of its 15.5-billion-gallon capacity, which helps maintain water supply to the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant.

New NASA mission could help Lake Okeechobee, red tide in Florida

CAPE CANAVERAL – NASA will be taking images of bodies of water on Earth and using that information and data to predict how healthy, or unhealthy, water surfaces are.

NASA is elevating what it means to take photos of Earth. The newly launched satellite is a game-changer, according to the agency.

They’ll be taking images of bodies of water, and that information and data will then be used to predict how healthy, or unhealthy, water surfaces are.

The program is called PACE, which stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud ocean Ecosystem mission.

“PACE is going to see earth in a way we’ve never seen before, in so many different colors,” Ivona Cetinic, an oceanographer with NASA’s PACE, said. “I’m hoping this data will get to everybody and help them understand how beautiful our home planet is.”

NASA said this will enhance how they study water and the environment, including algae blooms and red tide, which are issues found in South Florida.

Tampa Bay Water identifies two incremental supply options identified for south Hillsborough County

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The demand in the South Hillsborough County service area has been steadily increasing for the past several years and has sharply increased in the past year. Average demand in this service area for 2023 was 58.8 million gallons of water per day (mgd), an increase of 6 mgd over the previous year.

This surge in demand has pushed the 12-month average pumping rate from the South-Central Hillsborough Regional Wellfield to 27.59 mgd, which is above its permitted limit of 24.95 mgd. Tampa Bay Water staff have been working with Hillsborough County to explore every possible infrastructure and water supply option to keep pace with demands and have identified two new opportunities to bring additional water to this service area.

The first is a Hillsborough County permit on property south of the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir that is currently leased to a sod farm, but the lease is expiring. Hillsborough County is planning a new facility on the property but will not need the full permitted amount for its facility. Tampa Bay Water could acquire approximately 340,000 gallons of water per day that could be transferred to the South-Central Hillsborough Regional Wellfield, increasing the wellfield’s permitted limit to approximately 26 mgd. Staff will bring the permit modification application to the board for approval in the next 2-3 months.

The second opportunity is acquiring part of the water permitted for a property in southern Hillsborough County that is partially transitioning from agricultural to residential. Staff are negotiating with the property owner to acquire 590,100 gallons per day to transfer to Tampa Bay Water’s existing permit and potentially increase that permit by 500,000 gallons per day. The permitted quantity can be combined with the potential South Hillsborough Wellfield using aquifer recharge credits. Tampa Bay Water and Hillsborough County are currently discussing this supply option and a long-term agreement for the credits. Staff will present the permit modification application to the board at its February meeting.

UCF researchers estimate cost to tourism of 2018 red tide at $2.7 billion

A new study from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management has found that the loss to tourism-related businesses due to the 2018 Florida red tide bloom is estimated at approximately $2.7 billion.

The research, performed in collaboration with the University of South Florida and Florida A&M University, was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management. The work offers a profound understanding of the economic impacts of harmful algae blooms (HABs) on Florida’s tourism sector.

One of the most striking conclusions of the study is the relationship between the severity of red tide blooms and their economic impact on tourism.

Contrary to expectations, the study reveals that low concentrations of red tide can have disproportionate economic impacts compared to more intense blooms.

This finding underscores the importance of how red tide information is communicated and perceived, influencing its economic fallout.

“The magnitude of losses from red tide show how important it is for the Federal and State governments to allocate appropriate resources for response and recovery to harmful algae blooms in our coastal communities,” says Sergio Alvarez, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Rosen College.

“In addition, coastal tourism businesses should consider harmful algae as a very real risk to the economic sustainability of their operations,” he says. “It is essential that we find appropriate risk management tools for individuals, businesses, and communities that may suffer the economic impacts of harmful algae blooms.”

Water Quality Advisory issued for Picnic Island Beach

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TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) has issued a water quality advisory for the following location:

Picnic Island Beach
7409 Picnic Island Blvd
Tampa, FL 33616

Tests completed on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, indicate that the water quality at Picnic Island Beach does not meet the recreational water quality criteria for Enterococcus bacteria recommended by the Florida Department of Health.

DOH-Hillsborough advises against any water-related activities at this location due to the potential for high bacteria levels. Bacteriological sampling conducted during regular water quality monitoring showed that the level of bacteria exceeds the level established by state guidelines.

This advisory will continue until bacteria levels are below the accepted health level. New test results should be available for Picnic Island Beach on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

For more information call 813-559-4065 or visit the Florida Healthy Beaches Program website.