Water-Related News

First-of-its-kind study shows Florida Wildlife Corridor eases worst impacts of climate change

From rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns to intense weather events such as hurricanes, Florida is experiencing significant climate-related challenges in tandem with skyrocketing insurance rates. As the state's population continues to surge by 1,000 new residents a day, it is projected to lose 3.5 million acres of land to development by 2070, threatening Florida's future ability to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services.

A first-of-its-kind study highlights how Florida can buffer itself against both climate change and population pressures by conserving the remaining 8 million acres of "opportunity areas" within the Florida Wildlife Corridor (FLWC). Currently, about 10 million acres of the expansive FLWC's 18 million acres are already conserved permanently.

This superhighway of interconnected acres of wildlands, working lands and waters is the only designated statewide corridor in the United States, and a world-class adaption plan facing down ground zero of climate change in an already warm location. Spanning from Alabama to the Everglades, the FLWC not only protects endangered species like the Florida panther, but also brings economic and climate benefits to local communities. About 90% of Floridians live within 20 miles of the corridor.

The new report, "The Florida Wildlife Corridor and Climate Change: Managing Florida's Natural and Human Landscapes for Prosperity and Resilience," is a joint project by Florida Atlantic University, Archbold Biological Station, Live Wildly Foundation and numerous collaborators. The report paints a holistic picture of how climate change and population growth will impact Florida's communities and natural resources, and how the FLWC, if it were fully enacted, can continue to moderate those impacts.

Switch to green wastewater infrastructure could reduce emissions and provide huge savings, new resea

University researchers have shown that a transition to green wastewater-treatment approaches in the U.S. that leverages the potential of carbon-financing could save a staggering $15.6 billion and just under 30 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions over 40 years.

The comprehensive findings from Colorado State University were highlighted in Nature Communications Earth & Environment in a first-of-its-kind study. The work from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering explores the potential economic tradeoffs of switching to green infrastructure and technology solutions that go beyond existing gray-water treatment practices.

Built off data collected at over 22,000 facilities, the report provides comprehensive baseline metrics and explores the relationship among emissions, costs and treatment capabilities for utility operators and decision-makers.

Orange County investing $2.1 million on Lake Apopka Loop Trail

The Lake Apopka Loop Trail is one of Northwest Orange County's most popular outdoor destinations. The multi-use trail encompasses almost 15 miles of stunning landscapes and trails.

It's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who love to explore the beauty of nature. The trail is situated on the shores of Lake Apopka, which is Florida's fourth-largest lake and is home to a variety of wildlife.

Last week, the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted to invest another $2.1 million in the Lake Apopka Trail Loop.

"I wanted to let you know that at the April 23rd BCC Consent Agenda, we are moving $1.5 million to the West Orange Trail (Rock Springs and Wekiva State Park) to provide sufficient funding for the design of this segment of the trail," said District 2 Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore. "There is also on the consent agenda under Community and Family Services the approval and execution of the Grant Agreement for the $640,000 funding the county is receiving from the State to fund a portion of the design. The total design cost is approximately $2.1 million. Once the design gets to a point where the cost of construction is known, we will then look at what options we have to fund the construction costs."

According to the agenda packet, the amendment provides an additional post-design scope of services, including engineering/landscape architectural services to complete shop drawing reviews, construction administration modification of final construction plans, permit renewals and extensions, and pay items.

UF/IFAS launches landscape water use survey

The survey is designed to enhance water conservation efforts, programs statewide

Looking for ways to help save on your household water bill? Wondering how often to irrigate the lawn? Perhaps you are looking at the use of technologies that will help you gauge when and how often to irrigate.

A team of University of Florida researchers at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has released the Landscape Water Use Survey, which is aimed at homeowners and land managers statewide. The responses will help scientists understand how much the average resident irrigates the landscape and how people learn how to conserve water.

“Every drop counts, and we are hoping to collect data from participants statewide to help us find additional ways to reduce water pollution and further promote water conservation,” said Kimberly Moore, professor of sustainable horticulture and associate director the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center (FLREC). “With the help of survey participants, who will remain anonymous, we will use this information to develop online training videos and continue to make improvements in water conservation messaging and programs for the public at the state and local levels.”

The 30-question survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, gives participants the opportunity to share where they stand on various water conservation issues, including their perception of their water bill, how often and when they irrigate their lawn, whether and what type of technology is incorporated into water usage and more.

U.S. District judge nails down decision in wetlands case

TALLAHASSEE — In a case closely watched by business and environmental groups, a U.S. district judge Friday finalized his rejection of a 2020 move by the federal government to shift permitting authority to Florida for projects that affect wetlands.

Judge Randolph Moss issued a 27-page opinion that, as he acknowledged, likely will set the stage for the case to go to an appeals court. The opinion came after a Feb. 15 ruling in which Moss vacated the transfer of permitting authority because he said federal officials had not followed required steps before making the 2020 decision.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has argued that the Feb. 15 ruling could put more than 1,000 permit applications in “regulatory limbo.” But Moss wrote Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is prepared to review permits as the legal dispute continues.

The 2020 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made Florida only the third state, after Michigan and New Jersey, to receive the permitting authority, which is usually held by the Army Corps.

Florida Legislature lets local governments make their own fertilizer rules, bans again

Florida cities and counties once again may pass new fertilizer ordinances and strengthen existing ones, including summer rainy season bans, since the Legislature did not extend a one-year moratorium on such home rule.

Lawmakers took no action on the moratorium during the 2024 January-March legislation session, after enacting the controversial moratorium in what critics called a "sneak attack" during the 2023 March-May legislative session.

In February, a coalition of 57 elected officials from municipalities that already had enacted local fertilizer ordinances urged lawmakers to let the moratorium expire, according to a letter they sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner.

"As leaders charged with protecting our constituents, keeping Florida’s waterways clean is a top priority," the letter reads. "Water quality is of utmost importance to our health, our environment and our economy. From the beaches to the bays, Florida’s tourism industry and local businesses require clean water."

Lake County Dept. of Health renews Health Alert for Lake Yale

FDOH logo

April 1, 2024

EUSTIS – The Florida Department of Health in Lake County (DOH-Lake) has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Yale – South of Center. This is in response to a water sample taken on March 27, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Yale – South of Center.

Previous notifications follow

March 15, 2024

EUSTIS – The Florida Department of Health in Lake County (DOH-Lake) has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Yale - Center. This is in response to a water sample taken on March 12, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Yale - Center.

Feb. 12, 2024

EUSTIS – The Florida Department of Health in Lake County (DOH-Lake) has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Yale - Center. This is in response to a water sample taken on February 7, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Yale - Center.

(The Department of Health uses a two-tiered notification of Health Cautions and Health Alerts. For blue-green algae, a Health Caution is based on the presence of a bloom, and a Health Alert is issued on the basis of toxin detected.)

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae Boiling t

    Cost of watering lawns in Florida? Not so bad compared to other states

    California has the top 3 most expensive cities in lawn hydration.

    Drive down any residential neighborhood in Florida and sprinkler systems watering thirsty lawns are a common sight. It’s simply part of Sunshine State living.

    But when it comes to the cost of watering lawns, Florida is pretty affordable compared to other cities in the U.S. According to a new report by Lawnlove.com, a lawn care website, there was only one Florida metro area — Lakeland/Winter Haven, listed at No. 24 — that landed in the top 25 when it comes to the most costly places to hydrate lawns.

    The study released this month considered three factors in compiling the list of most expensive cities to water lawns. Lawnlove.com considered lawn care cost, lawn irrigation cost and yard size. According to those factors, the most expensive place to water lawns in the U.S. is in Sacramento, California.

    In fact, California accounted for the top three cities that were the most expensive to water lawns, with Vasalia and Bakersfield completing the trio of costliest places to hydrate property.

    California had a total of six cities listed in the top 25 most expensive places to water lawns.

    Judge: PACE home resilience loans must be included on tax rolls statewide

    The spotlight turns on tax collectors and local governments — will they once again defy the judge?

    A Leon County Circuit Court judge ruled that the Florida PACE Funding Agency program can be administered statewide, clearing the way for Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys to have access to affordable financing to protect their homes against hurricanes and rising sea levels.

    But with hurricane season looming in less than two months and millions of dollars of PACE projects stuck in limbo, the spotlight turns on tax collectors and local governments — will they once again defy the judge?

    Some financial experts are concerned that the continued defiance of the judge by the tax collectors could call into question ratings on the state’s municipal bonds whose repayment depends on the tax collectors fulfilling their duties.

    The Leon Circuit Court judge’s ruling comes on the heels of legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Florida House and Senate that would make the PACE program even better than it already is. SB 770, which is awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, includes key new provisions that enhance consumer protections, including reducing the maximum term of financing from 30 to 20 years, adding an ability-to-pay test and requiring that only 20 percent or less of the home’s value can be financed.

    The new legislation also has an environmental benefit, allowing local governments to approve homeowners to leverage the PACE program for septic-to-sewer conversions, which will improve Florida’s water quality and protect springs and drinking water sources.

    [Editor's note: PACE loans are funded by the State of Florida, with repayments collected as part of local property tax payments.]

    U.S. losing valuable wetlands at alarming rate

    The losses threaten flood control, wildlife habitat and clean water

    Roughly 670,000 acres of salt marshes and swamps — greater than the land area of Rhode Island — disappeared between 2009 and 2019 in the contiguous 48 states, a Congressional report released last week shows, threatening key flood controls, wildlife habitats and access to clean water.

    Mandated by Congress, the recent Wetlands Status and Trends report is the sixth such document since 1954. It is published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    “Wetland loss leads to the reduced health, safety and prosperity of all Americans,” wrote U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, in the report’s preface. “When wetlands are lost, society loses services such as clean water; slowing of coastal erosion; protection against flooding, drought and fire; resilience to climate change and sea level rise.” There are also losses in fish, wildlife and plant habitats.

    Not only is the U.S. losing sheer acreage of wetlands, but the rate of loss has also increased by 50% since the turn of the century, or about 21,000 acres per year. The remaining wetlands are being transformed into ponds, mudflats and sand bars; these are known as non-vegetated wetlands — a change that alters “wetland function and lead to the reduction of wetland benefits, like the mitigation of severe storms and sea level rise, and water quality improvement …” the report reads.

    It’s likely that the loss of wetlands will accelerate over the next decade. Fish and Wildlife’s recent study period ran from 2009 through 2019 — before the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision that stripped environmental protections from tens of millions of acres of wetlands nationwide. (In North Carolina 2.5 million acres lost environmental protection because of the decision, as well as the legislature’s passage of the 2023 Farm Act that cemented it into state law.)

    New hydrilla treatment coming to Lake Apopka

    The St. Johns River Water Management District’s spring 2024 hydrilla treatment plan aims to treat more than 1,600 acres of Lake Apopka by airboat, with three new areas being targeted.

    The St. Johns River Water Management District hosted a community meeting Tuesday, March 5, at Tanner Hall in Winter Garden to give updates on Lake Apopka restoration and vegetation management.

    Those who have questions or wish to provide feedback should email LakeApopkaRestoration@sjrwmd.com.

    At the meeting, Mary Ellen Winkler, assistant executive director for SJRWMD, announced the district is aiming to treat 1,633 acres of Lake Apopka for hydrilla by airboat come spring 2024.

    The SJRWMD’s treatment plan proposes three new treatments at Smith Island, Gourd Neck and the Oakland Nature Preserve. In addition, follow-up treatments in the fall would be given to a 350-acre area along the northwest shore of Lake Apopka, east of Ferndale, as well as to a 1,125-acre area described as the north shore.

    The district hopes the treatment will be conducted before the end of April. However, the exact timing is contingent upon weather conditions and lake-related activities.