Water-Related News

Almost half of Florida water bodies have algal blooms, and climate change is worsening the problem

Florida — home of armed iguana hunters, exploding toilets, and the nation's grandparents — just so happens to be the perfect petri dish for algal blooms. Because blue-green algae absorb energy from the sun and quickly grow in warm freshwater, the Sunshine State offers optimal conditions for the microorganisms called cyanobacteria to thrive.

Nearly all of Lake Okeechobee was covered in cyanobacteria in 2018, and the bacteria has returned this summer. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tested 108 bodies of water statewide in the past month, and 44 percent had algal blooms. Eight sites were tested in Broward County in the past two weeks. Algal blooms were found in all but one.

"We have a problem," says Soren Rundquist, the director of spatial analysis for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. "Florida's warmer climate is naturally conducive to algal blooms."

USF's poop-powered generator could have worldwide impact

Flowers are blooming in an unconventional spot. It's a vertical hydroponic wall attached to a small generator.

"Which is basically making use of the nutrients and water recovered from the waste water that our system is treating," explained University of South Florida researcher Jorge Calabria.

The mini sewage system is called the NEWgenerator. It was developed by USF engineering professor Dr. Daniel Yeh and his research team.

“NEW" stands for nutrients, energy and water, which the generator recovers from human waste.

"This system works well,” said Yeh. “It allows us to get rid of our waste and actually recover clean waterfrom that.”

It also harnesses energy.

"Think of this as a renewable natural gas that's sitting in our waste and we're, for the most part, not mining that. So we can mine that for heating water, cooking, generating electricity, a number of uses," explained Yeh. 

Harris Chain of Lakes selected to host 2020 FLW Tour event

Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that the Harris Chain of Lakes has been selected to host the second event of the 25th season of the FLW Tour, Feb. 20-23, 2020, in Leesburg. The 25th season of the FLW Tour will feature seven regular-season tournaments showcasing the best anglers in the world competing at top bass fisheries at peak times.

“Lake County is excited to welcome back the Fishing League Worldwide Tour,” said Lake County Commissioner Tim Sullivan. “The abundant Harris Chain of Lakes, in particular, has increasingly become a destination for major fishing tournaments such as this one, which will bring the world’s top anglers to our great county. We wish them a successful event and encourage them to take some time to enjoy all that Lake County has to offer, and discover why we are ‘Real Florida, Real Close.”

The FLW Tour has visited the Harris Chain of Lakes two times previously, with 2020 marking the third visit in the Tour’s 25-year history.

Rainfall and lake levels update

As we approach the middle of the wet season, June and July were particularly wet. June recorded 8.13 inches of rain, which is 0.77 inches above the historic average of 7.36 inches and July recorded 10.04 inches of rain, 2.41 inches above the historic average of 7.63 inches. Lake County is at 102% of the year to date rainfall.

As of this morning Lake Minnehaha, the reference lake for the Clermont Chain, is at 96.52 ft. MSL, 0.98 ft. (slightly more than 11 inches) below the upper end of the regulatory range. The regulatory range is from 96.0 ft. to 97.50 ft. The lake is about 0.35 ft. (about 4 inches) lower than it was at this same time last year. The combined flow from Big and Little Creeks into Lake Louisa is currently 142 cfs (cubic ft. per second) or 63,848 gpm (gallons per minute). As a comparison, in October 2017 after Hurricane Irma, the combined flow from Big and Little Creeks was 659 cfs or 289,960 gpm. The Cherry Lake Dam has remained closed since the end of March.

For the Harris Chain of Lakes, all the lakes are near the regulatory levels. Lake Apopka is currently at 65.87 ft. which is 0.22 ft. (about 2.4 inches) above the regulatory level of 65.66 ft. 100% of the flow from Lake Apopka is through NuRF and as of this morning, flow is at 200 cfs or 89.800 gpm (gallons per minute). The middle lakes (Beauclair, Carlton, Dora, Eustis and Harris) currently average 61.86 ft., which is 0.12 ft. (about 1.4 inches) above the regulatory level of 61.74 ft. Flow from the middle lakes through the Burrell lock and dam is at 419 cfs or 188,131 gpm (gallons per minute). For Lake Griffin, the lake is currently at 57.80 ft. which is 0.06 ft. (about ¾ of an inch) below the regulatory level of 57.74 ft. Flow from Lake Griffin through the Moss Bluff lock and dam is at 499 cfs or 201,601 gpm (gallons per minute).

A new old way to combat toxic algae: float it up, then skim it off

In Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers is working to combat a growing environmental menace: blue-green algae. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms and subdivisions combines with warm summer weather to create massive blooms of algae in rivers and lakes that can be toxic.

In central Florida, Lake Okeechobee has been hit hard in recent years. In Moore Haven, on the western shore of the lake, Dan Levy was recently working on a solution. He was standing on a platform peering into a large water-filled tank. Inside, floating on top of the water was a thick mat of blue-green algae. "This is our treatment system," said Levy. "This is where we actually float the algae up and skim it across."

Levy is with AECOM, an engineering and infrastructure company that's working with the Army Corps of Engineers on the nagging and sometimes devastating problem. Algal blooms aren't just a nuisance. The algae, actually cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that threaten drinking water supplies, local economies and human health.