Water-Related News

SJRWMD to host public meeting on Lake Apopka restoration on March 5th

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The St. Johns River Water Management District will hold an in-person public meeting to provide an update on Lake Apopka restoration efforts and vegetation management activities. This meeting is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at Tanner Hall, located at 29 W. Garden Avenue, Winter Garden, FL 34787. See directions below.

For a copy of the agenda or for more information about this meeting, please contact the District by phone at 407-659-4868 or by email at LakeApopkaRestoration@sjrwmd.com .

Directions:

From State Road 50/W. Colonial Drive in Winter Garden: Turn north onto Vineland Road. Continue straight (north) onto S. Main St. Continue straight (north) across County Road 438/Plant St. onto N. Main St. At the end of North Main St., continue straight (north) onto Surprise Drive. Turn left (west) onto West Garden Avenue. Tanner Hall will be on your right before the playground.

From County Road 438/Plant Street in Winter Garden: Turn north onto N. Main St. At the end of North Main St., continue straight (north) onto Surprise Drive. Turn left (west) onto West Garden Avenue. Tanner Hall will be on your right before the playground.

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."

Lake County Health Dept. issues Health Alert for Lake Yale - Center

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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 the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish to appropriate temperature.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae

For updates, please visit the FDEP statewide Algal Bloom Dashboard.

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.

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.

Lake County Health Department issues Health Alert for two Lake Harris locations

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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 Harris, west of Seaside loop and north of Peninsula Drive. The sample locations are shown in the map excerpt below.

This is in response to a water sample taken on January 22, 2024.

The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Harris.

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 blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish to appropriate temperature.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

For updates, please visit the Florida DEP statewide Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Algal Bloom Sample Locations

Study: White House rule dramatically deregulates wetlands, streams and drinking water

The 1972 Clean Water Act protects the "waters of the United States" but does not precisely define which streams and wetlands this phrase covers, leaving it to presidential administrations, regulators, and courts to decide. As a result, the exact coverage of Clean Water Act rules is difficult to estimate.

New research led by a team at the University of California, Berkeley, used machine learning to more accurately predict which waterways are protected by the Act. The analysis found that a 2020 Trump administration rule removed Clean Water Act protection for one-fourth of U.S. wetlands and one-fifth of U.S. streams, and also deregulated 30% of watersheds that supply drinking water to household taps. The research was published in Science.

"Using machine learning to understand these rules helps decode the DNA of environmental policy," said author Joseph Shapiro, an associate professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. "We can finally understand what the Clean Water Act actually protects.

Prior analyses assumed that streams and wetlands sharing certain geophysical characteristics were regulated, without scrutinizing data on what was actually regulated—an approach the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers called, "highly unreliable."

The researchers trained a machine learning model to predict 150,000 jurisdictional decisions by the Army Corps. Each Corps decision interprets the Clean Water Act for one site and rule. The model predicts regulation across the U.S. under the Trump rule and its predecessor, the Supreme Court's "Rapanos" ruling, which had previously guided Corps decisions.

Flooding, groundwater rise can have impact on septic systems

GAINESVILLE — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates the state has more than 2 million septic systems. If an owner does not properly maintain one, it poses an environmental threat to the state’s drinking water. Besides regular maintenance, managing the impacts of flooding and groundwater rise are two more issues owners must address. A new UF/IFAS publication explains the effects these two phenomena have on septic systems.

Dr. Mary Lusk, assistant professor of urban soil and water quality in the UF/IFAS department of soil, water, and ecosystem sciences, authored the publication. She says the information is primarily for homeowners or renters who rely on a septic system, but it is just as valuable for government planners and decision makers.

“When you think of a septic system as a small, onsite wastewater treatment plant, you realize how serious its job is,” Lusk explains. “It collects everything you flush down the toilet, pour down the sink, shower, and bathtub as well as the washing machine and dishwasher. The septic system has to process all that, which includes harmful chemicals and disease-causing pathogens.”

UF/IFAS: Timing of fertilizer ordinances impacts water quality

A new publication by University of Florida scientists on the efficacy of fertilizer ordinances provides an overview of a previously published study that found local fertilizer ordinances can improve water quality, but the timing of ordinances can influence their effectiveness.

The results of this prior study suggest that more research is needed into how and why different ordinances are more or less effective.

Scientists also agree that studies should consider other drivers impacting water quality trends such as toxins or waste from septic and sewage systems and fossil fuel emissions.

The just-published ASK IFAS document synthesizes a 2022 published study led by scientists at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). Researchers investigated the long-term impacts of fertilizer ordinances across 160 lakes throughout Florida. The ASK IFAS document also provides additional takeaways on other studies that could help mitigate quality problems.

“This ASK IFAS document is written to summarize the prior scientific publication for non-experts, including UF/IFAS Extension faculty, local regulatory officials, green industry professionals, and concerned citizens,” said A.J. Reisinger, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of soil, water and ecosystem sciences and one of the authors of the study. We encourage the readers to use this information to highlight the effectiveness of fertilizer ordinances, but we also recognize the complex nature of water-quality issues.”

A controversial report says there is not enough evidence proving fertilizer bans help water quality

A Dunedin city commissioner and an activist at 1000 Friends of Florida share their take on fertilizer bans.

Florida lawmakers raised eyebrows last year when they ordered researchers to determine whether local ordinances that ban the use of fertilizers for part of the year are effective.

At the same time, legislators prohibited cities and counties from issuing new ordinances for 12 months.

But that didn’t impact ordinances already in place, like Pinellas County’s ban of nitrogen and phosphorous on landscapes between June and September.

Jeff Gow is a commissioner for the city of Dunedin, which he said has supported Pinellas' fertilizer ordinance since its inception in 2010.

He said lawmakers should speak with local officials and residents before making changes.

"Instead of them just making laws in Tallahassee, if they have concerns or ideas, reach out to us, ask us… We're the ones that are out there in the trenches every day talking to our residents," he said.

"So, that was the major emphasis on us reconfirming our dedication to supporting of the ban-- just kind of to make a statement that we think we're going in the right direction," he said.

Environmental advocates say the fertilizer bans protect local waterways from nutrients that feed algae blooms, but a report from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences says there is inconclusive evidence to support that.

Now, advocates worry legislators may try to further prohibit cities and counties from creating fertilizer ordinances.

WUSF's Jessica Meszaros spoke to Haley Busch with the advocacy organization 1000 Friends of Florida about it.