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FL - Nine-county comparative report exposes troubling trends for water quality in Southwest Florida

Since 1993, March 22 has been known as World Water Day, and Calusa Waterkeeper is taking this opportunity to release a Report chronicling troubling trends in the quality of Southwest Florida’s waterways from 2018 to 2020.

September 19, 2018

World Water Day is an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater and sustainable management of freshwater resources.

The study covers Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hendry and Glades Counties, and is based on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) assessment criteria — gathered from the agency’s annual comprehensive verified list of impaired waters.

According to Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani, principal author of the Report: “Understanding factors contributing to water quality impairment in Florida is important for determining sources and eventual restoration planning. Assessing water quality impairment on a geopolitical basis, for instance, by county, is relevant as most state-mandated restoration programs, such as Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), are implemented primarily by local government stakeholders.”

Among other findings, the Report documents that Lee, Collier, Manatee and Charlotte experienced the greatest increase in water quality impairment. The Report also reveals that fecal bacteria was the most frequently occurring impairment parameter in six of the nine counties including Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas. The presence of fecal bacteria is a significant public health risk in addition to compromising ecosystems.

The following are highlighted summary points of concern from the full 16-page Report:

• Counties’ ranking with regard to an increased rate of water quality impairment from highest to lowest were Lee, Collier, Manatee and Charlotte.

• Counties’ percent of total water bodies (WBIDs) impaired from highest to lowest were Glades, Hendry and Lee.

• Fecal bacteria were the most frequently occurring impairment parameter in six of the nine counties. Many of these fecal bacteria impairments occur in Outstanding Florida Waters that are supposed to be protected from water quality decline by statute.

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