An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Pasco County declares May ‘Fertilizer Awareness Month’, offers May 26 fertilizer class

PASCO COUNTY – May is ‘Fertilizer Awareness Month’ in Pasco County, a reminder that using fertilizer properly can help your lawn and the environment!

While fertilizer can promote a healthy, vibrant lawn – applying too much or applying it incorrectly can cause chemical runoff that pollutes our ground and surface water. This causes harmful algae blooms that choke out seagrass – the main food source for Florida’s beloved manatees. More than 1,100 manatees died in Florida last year, many due to starvation from lack of seagrass.

Harmful chemical runoff is most likely during our rainy season – June through September – and the resulting algae blooms can also cause flooding.

These fertilizer application tips can help protect our environment:

  • Follow package directions to avoid over-fertilizing
  • Avoid spreading fertilizer on sidewalks, streets and gutters
  • Don’t apply fertilizer within 10 feet of any body of water
  • Don’t apply fertilizer ahead of expected flooding or tropical storms

Keep Pasco Beautiful is offering a free Fertilizing Properly Workshop Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m.

  • You can attend in-person or virtually by registering here: bit.ly/3LirVpD.
  • The workshop will feature speakers from the University of Florida Pasco Extension and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
  • Admission is free and all are welcome to come.
  • There will be both a virtual and in person option.
  • In-person attendees will receive a free reusable tote with sustainable items, and a chance to win a $100 Publix gift card.

For more information about Keep Pasco Beautiful, visit: keeppascobeautiful.org.

Gulf Coast commercial fishermen file lawsuit over new red grouper quotas

The federal lawsuit challenges allocations approved by NOAA as part of Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal government will soon impose new limits on the amount of red grouper that commercial fishers can catch in the Gulf of Mexico and local business owners say that will impact the industry and their customers.

“It will definitely cost you more today. And will probably cost you more tomorrow because there'll be less allocation,” said Frank Chivas, owner of Baystar Restaurant Group, which operates 12 restaurants in the greater Tampa Bay region.

"Which is basically the grouper capital of the world,” he said. “And believe it or not, people come down here from all over to eat fresh red grouper.”

Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fishing Company in Cortez agrees that the price for grouper is likely to rise.

“It’s limiting what we're able to sell to the public,” she said. “When the supply is reduced, the price goes up because there's less of it available."

Earlier this month, the government announced an amendment to the National Marine Fisheries Service management plan. The quota for recreational fishing would rise from 24 percent to 40.7 percent, while the commercial share would decline from 76 percent to 59.3 percent.

Hustle and flow: USF studies how water moves in Tampa Bay

Researchers are fine-tuning a model that helped scientists study the effects of last year’s Piney Point release into the bay.

ABOARD THE R/V W.T. HOGARTH — The research vessel motored off downtown St. Petersburg, its back deck loaded with squat, concrete trapezoids.

Painted blue and labeled “USF” and “FDEP,” the blocks were essentially anchors, 2,500 pounds apiece. Tucked within each was a small, $18,000 sensor.

Bob Weisberg, a physical oceanographer at the University of South Florida, stood on deck with a gaggle of students and colleagues. They donned orange vests and hard hats, and they stepped carefully around the trapezoids.

Over the 78-foot R/V W.T. Hogarth’s gunwales, the bay slipped calmly by, reflecting the morning sun on a warm Tuesday in May.

Soon the researchers would deliver the sensors to the bottom of the bay, where they will sit for months, measuring the velocity of water. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is helping pay for the work.

Scientists need velocity data to better understand an aspect of the bay that Weisberg believes is underappreciated: the way it moves.

Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to offer flood planning webinar May 26th

REACH Webinar: Mapper and Database Training Workshop

Register for the May 26, 2022 REACH webinar to use the new flood mapper tool, conduct targeted analysis, and download data to use in your community vulnerability assessments.

The REACH team will release the new regional housing report which defines risks to affordable housing in each Tampa Bay Regional Resilience Coalition county.

The workshop will also provide training and tips on using the UF Coastal Flood Risk web mapping tool and database to easily and quickly identify buildings and populations potentially impacted by hurricanes and future sea level rise.

These important new resources include publicly assisted and unassisted multifamily and single family housing under $200,000, and support the ability to define social factors from the CDC Social Vulnerability Index. The resources encompass Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

Thursday May 26, 2022 from 10:00 to 11:30am

Who Should Attend: Local government planners, housing agencies, managers, GIS analysts, floodplain managers and resilience professionals working on Community Vulnerability Assessments.

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtde-sqDMjGNC76s9fh8b0vevTv2zwZChd

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Visit the Housing Affordability & Resiliency page.

Holmes Beach explores algae remediation

Holmes Beach usually takes a passive approach on the algae blooms that sometimes clog its waterways.

But that might end this year.

Holmes Beach Clean Water Committee Chair Ron Huibers urged city commissioners May 10 to take a more active approach while presenting the advisory board’s recommendations for remediating algae blooms.

The CWC created the recommendations in response to a recent bloom of Lyngbya wollei, also known as “brown gumbo” algae, which produces mats that float and produce a rotten odor.

The board’s first recommendation is for the city to hire a contractor to procure a skimmer vessel to collect and dispose of algal mats, since removal would reduce the nitrogen load and odor.

Huibers said he’d contacted several contractors who would perform the work for thousands of dollars a week or the city could purchase a skimmer vessel, which he estimated could cost about $90,000 and $15,000 to operate annually.

TBEP awards Gulfport rain garden Golden Mangrove Award

A community garden project in Gulfport has been recognized for its excellence by a regional organization which helped fund it.

Participants in the Gulfport Sustainability Committee who came together to create a rain garden outside the Gulfport Recreation Center learned in early May the garden received the 2020 Golden Mangrove Award from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, who presents the award to “the most outstanding bay mini-grant project in each grant cycle.” The winners will accept the award in person May 27 at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, where they’ll provide a brief overview of the project.

“The Golden Mangrove Subcommittee, which is made up of Community Advisory Committee members, felt that your project encapsulated the true mission of the Bay Mini-Grant program – a grassroots community organization with a commitment to protect Tampa Bay coming together to successfully complete a small project,” a TBEP official stated. “The review committee felt there is no organization more deserving than the Gulfport Sustainability Committee to receive the award.”

City Councilmember April Thanos, one of the participants in the project, said it began in 2020 with an idea to repurpose a small area between the recreation center and 58th Street that was meant to be a retention area. She enlisted the help of Dana Parkinson, who wrote two grants that funded the project.

Tampa Bay’s future water supply likely to be river to tap

An impasse over a proposed groundwater project and the high cost of desalination limited the options.

CLEARWATER — Skimming and treating more from the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers and Tampa Bypass Canal emerged Monday as the leading choice to bolster the region’s future drinking water supply.

The plan — to expand the existing, 20-year-old surface water treatment plant in Tampa or build a brand new plant near the C.W. “Bill” Young Regional Reservoir — is the least costly of the three alternatives that had been under consideration by Tampa Bay Water. The regional utility has been studying ways to add 10 million gallons a day to the drinking water supply by 2028 to serve Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and the cities of New Port Richey, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The alternatives dwindled Monday when the Tampa Bay Water board of directors voted unanimously to shelve a plan to build new groundwater wells in southern Hillsborough. That proposal required Hillsborough County simultaneously injecting reclaimed water at sites near the coast to shield potential saltwater intrusion and to boost the underground water levels at the new well field several miles away.

SWFWMD to hold peer review of wetland-based criteria for minimum wetland and lake levels

Pinellas Ext logo

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold an independent, scientific peer review of wetland-based criteria for use in establishing minimum wetland and lake levels beginning this month. A minimum level is the level of groundwater in an aquifer or the level of surface water at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area.

The review will be conducted by a three-member panel virtually via Microsoft Teams, teleconference and a web board established specifically for the peer review.

The meetings will take place:

  • May 23 at 9 a.m.
  • May 31 at 1 p.m.
  • June 6 at 1 p.m.
  • July 11 at 1 p.m.
  • July 18 at 1 p.m.

Members of the public can join the meetings virtually and register to use the web board to post comments regarding the peer review process. Links to the Teams meetings can be found on the District’s Boards, Meetings and Events calendar at WaterMatters.org/calendar. The web board will be open for posting comments through July 19, 2022, and open for viewing through June 30, 2023.

The draft documents on the wetland-based criteria to be considered by the panel will be made available on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/documents-and-reports. Based on findings of the peer review panel, District staff anticipate using the wetland criteria to support development of minimum levels that will be recommended to the District’s Governing Board for rule adoption to support water use regulation and water supply planning.

For more information regarding the scientific peer review, please contact Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead with the District’s Environmental Flows and Assessments Section at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4272.

United Nations offers free online freshwater water quality courses

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a range of new water quality monitoring and assessment courses on its eLearning platform, ahead of World Water Day on 22 March.

These free, online self-paced courses by the UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre (CDC) at the Environmental Research Institute at the University College Cork (UCC) are designed to complement the existing capacity development activities around water quality.

The courses provide a flexible learning approach for anyone interested in water quality or those who simply wish to know more about a particular aspect of managing and monitoring water quality without incurring the cost of a university-accredited course.

Current courses on offer include ‘An Introduction to Freshwater Quality Monitoring Programme Design’, ‘Quality Assurance for Freshwater Quality Monitoring’, ‘Water Quality Monitoring in Rivers and Lakes’ and ‘Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment of Groundwater,’ with further courses planned for release in 2022.

A range of other water quality monitoring and assessment offerings are available at the UNEP GEMS/Water CDC at UCC, including a university-accredited and certified online postgraduate diploma (PGDip), MSc, and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses.

See the UNEP GEMS/Water CDC webpage for further details.

Snook and redfish remain catch-and-release only through August

FWC logo

Extension of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout regulations in SW Florida through August 31

The following regulatory measures in southwest Florida for Sarasota Bay through Gordon Pass in Collier County will be extended through August 31, 2022:

  • Snook and redfish will remain catch-and-release.
  • Normal regulations for recreational spotted seatrout harvest have resumed with the addition of a six-fish recreational vessel limit. Commercial harvest has also resumed but harvest is held to the recreational three-fish bag and six-fish vessel limits.
  • These regulations are for all state waters south of State Road 64 in Manatee County, including Palma Sola Bay, through Gordon Pass in Collier County but not including the Braden River or any tributaries of the Manatee River.

The Commission is currently considering long-term regulation changes for redfish, which could take effect when harvest re-opens on Sept. 1, 2022. Normal regulations for snook and seatrout will resume on Sept. 1.

The catch-and-release measures for snook, redfish and spotted seatrout in all waters from Sarasota Bay through Gordon Pass in Collier County were put in place as part of the response to the prolonged 2017-2019 red tide event.

Learn more about regulations for these species by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine and clicking on “Recreational Regulations.

What you need to know ahead of the seasonal fertilizer bans

Numerous local governments restrict fertilizer use each year through the end of September.

ST. PETERSBURG – Florida's annual summer rainy season is about to begin, and that means fertilizer bans are soon kicking in, too.

Across the Tampa Bay region, numerous fertilizer bans begin June 1 and run through Sept. 30.

Such policies are in place in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, along with the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Pasco County has a fertilizer ordinance in place year-round to help prevent pollution and also help preserve local water quality.

People can still use products with double zeroes on the fertilizer label and use plants that are Florida-friendly. You can find more tips on how to have a Florida-friendly landscape on the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences website.

Water-related issues dominate Pinellas County’s 2022 federal legislative priorities

Pinellas logo

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners approved its 2022 Federal Legislative Priorities Program on Tuesday, highlighting issues that have a substantial impact on the county and will likely be addressed in the current Congress.

Priorities include:

  • Support a long-term extension to the Federal Flood Insurance Program (set to expire Sept. 30) that ensures financial sustainability while not pricing out policyholders. This includes providing premium discounts for private and community-based mitigation efforts.
  • Correct the issues with the approach and algorithm for Risk Rating 2.0, which went into full effect April 1, 2022
  • Request that the Army Corps of Engineers reevaluate its Perpetual Storm Damage Reduction Easement policy, which requires that 100 percent of beachfront property owners sign perpetual easements for areas landward of the Erosion Control Line within the limits of the planned Sand Key beach nourishment project.
  • Request that Congress include in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act a 50-year reauthorization of the Treasure Island and Long Key sections of the Pinellas County beach construction program.
  • Support strategies that address the Federal Highway Trust Fund’s declining revenues to adequately fund future transportation needs.
  • Identify federal funding opportunities for Pinellas County via the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Support legislation to permanently ban oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of Florida. Legislation providing for a temporary moratorium expires in 2022, and a Presidential Executive Order expires in 2032.

In addition to the listed priorities, staff will closely monitor issues that emerge and have the potential to impact Pinellas County Government’s ability to deliver services to residents and visitors.

Tampa City Council approves funding for infrastructure improvements

City officials say the work will create lasting improvements for years to come.

TAMPA – On Thursday, Tampa City Council members unanimously passed an agreement between the city and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. for $21 million.

It’s part of the first phase of the Foundation for Tampa’s Neighborhoods. The goal of the project is to bring water, wastewater, stormwater and roadway improvements to multiple neighborhoods within city limits.

Joyce Mitchelle has lived in the East Tampa area her whole life. She said she deals with water issues and roadway problems on a regular basis and so do her neighbors. She also said these infrastructure improvements are greatly needed.

“If they will do the full project and do it right, it will be great for the neighborhood and for the future kids of this generation," said Mitchelle.

The improvements will be made in East Tampa, Forest Hills, Macfarlane Park and Virginia Park. The work will begin in East Tampa and MacFarlane Park.

Deadline approaching for Tampa Bay Community Water Wise Awards entry

Pinellas Ext logo

From Doris Heitzmann, Pinellas County Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program Manager:

The Community Water Wise Awards Program is sponsored by Tampa Bay Water and was created to recognize individuals and businesses committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by implementing the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles. It is open to residents of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco Counties.

The Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ are:

  1. Right Plant, Right Place
  2. Water Efficiently
  3. Fertilize Appropriately
  4. Mulch
  5. Attract Wildlife
  6. Manage Yard Pests responsibly
  7. Recycle
  8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
  9. Protect the Waterfront

Most of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles are incorporated in the judging process for the Community Water Wise Awards program with focus on efficient water use in the landscape. The retention of trees and the overall design and aesthetics of the landscape are also taken into consideration. You may view photographs and watch short videos of past winners at https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/.

Who can apply?

The annual contest is open to landscapes from across the tri-county Tampa Bay region (includes Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough).

How to apply?

Entering is free, and only takes a few minutes. Potential applicants should visit https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/enter-your-landscape/ to fill out the brief online entry form.

The deadline for entries is Thursday, June 30. For questions contact Doris Heitzmann at dheitzmann@pinellascounty.org

To learn more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program and gardening related questions contact:

  • Pinellas County: Doris Heitzmann, 727-582-2110

Pinellas County awarded $700,000 grant to continue vulnerability assessment efforts

Pinellas County was awarded $700,000 in grant funding Tuesday from the State of Florida’s Resilient Florida Grant Program to complete the second phase of the County’s Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Vulnerability Assessment.

In phase one of the assessment, Pinellas County created more than 100 flood maps for various sea-level rise scenarios out to the year 2100, along with storm surge and tidal flooding projections to help categorize levels of vulnerability for various types of infrastructure.

Results of the final assessment from phase two will provide new data to the County to develop natural and engineered adaption strategies, including the design and planning of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, stormwater management systems and wastewater treatment facilities.

“Our goal is to create a more resilient Pinellas County for the future of our community,” said Hank Hodde, Pinellas County’s Sustainability and Resiliency Coordinator. “Using the best available data and science will help us lead the way in addressing current-day hazards and future climate impacts. We appreciate the state for their support in our current and upcoming efforts.”

The assessment results will be announced when completed. Updates on Pinellas County sustainability and resiliency efforts can be found at sustainability.pinellas.gov.

Pinellas County received one of 98 awards announced Tuesday from the Resilient Florida Grant Program. This award adds to the $28.6 million previously received from the grant program in February. The full list of projects awarded can be found here.

A new study shows the Piney Point spill likely made red tide worse

The spill essentially "fed" red tide by dumping nitrogen into the waters, fueling algae blooms and killing millions of fish and marine life.

A new study shows that the wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay last year from the Piney Point phosphate plant likely made the subsequent outbreak of red tide much worse. It says a year's worth of nutrients flowed into the bay in 10 days.

The study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin shows that about 180 metric tons of nitrogen poured into the bay from a leak at the phosphate plant. Those nutrients fueled the growth of algae called cyanobacteria. It essentially "fed" red tide when it entered Tampa Bay from the Gulf several weeks later — killing millions of fish and marine life.

"What we think happened is because the nutrients were around, it was available for the red tide," said Marcus Beck of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, , the study's lead author. "It just created this set of conditions that prompted the growth of the red tide to levels that we hadn't really seen in the bay — in that part of the bay, specifically — since 1971."

Since Tampa Bay is considered a "closed system" with only one outlet into the Gulf of Mexico, he said that meant putting that much nitrogen into the system, it would fuel algae blooms.

"The level of red tide that we saw, the concentrations that we saw this year, that was very abnormal," Beck said, "and with Piney Point, it wasn't too much of a stretch to suggest that that was the causative factor that was likely stimulating the growth in the bay in July."

The state has approved a plan for the remaining water at Piney Point to be injected deep underground. But some fear a heavy hurricane season could cause the stack to overflow once again.

Highlights of the study:

  • 186 metric tons of total nitrogen from wastewater were added to Tampa Bay
  • An initial diatom bloom was observed near the release site
  • Filamentous cyanobacteria were observed at high biomass
  • Karenia brevis (red tide) was at high concentrations, co-occurring with fish kills
  • Seagrasses were unimpacted during the six-month study period

Piney Point Timeline

Tarpon Springs’ Leepa Rattner Museum opens two exhibitions focused on water

It is no secret that Florida is home to beautiful and diverse waterways.

The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College is opening two summer exhibitions on May 21st which highlight the need to protect these waterways from impending harm. Both exhibitions run through August 27th.

The exhibition Balance of Water: Carol Mickett & Robert Stackhouse explores the effects of climate change and the warming of our waters. This exhibition can be found in the North, South, and Center Galleries.

“Balance of Water: Carol Mickett & Robert Stackhouse explores the unseen forces in nature that keep our planet in check and envisions what could happen when imbalance pushes these forces to the brink,” says Christine Renc-Carter, curator for the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. “Mickett and Stackhouse have created a forum for dialogue where art and science converge. Their monumental paintings push the conversation of climate change in new directions in a visually poetic way that is all-encompassing, yet intimate in feeling.”

The exhibition Florida’s Waterways: Homage to Tarpon Springs includes a collection of paintings and sculptures by local renowned artists. These pieces complement the Balance of Water exhibition by showcasing marine life and climate change in Florida. This exhibition can be found in the Atrium Gallery.

“As the Gulf Stream loops south towards the equator, the journey continues through Florida’s Waterways: Homage to Tarpon Springs with works focused on our southern waters by renowned local artists Christopher Still, Bill Renc, Allen Leepa and others,” Renc-Carter says. “The climate crisis becomes all too real with educational text and QR Codes that encourage scientific inquiry.”

UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas launches Adopt-A-Drain pilot program

PinellasExt logo

UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County, in collaboration with Pinellas County Environmental Management, has launched an Adopt-A-Drain pilot program. With summer around the corner, it’s a great opportunity for environmentalists, youth groups and other volunteers to adopt a storm drain near where they live, work or play.

Adopt-A-Drain partners with volunteers in Pinellas County to help keep storm drains flowing by ensuring they are free of litter and debris and marked with storm drain markers. Volunteers will also report illegal dumping, which helps improve water quality. Keeping storm drains clear is especially important during the summer rainy season to reduce the potential for flooding.

Modeled after the successful Adopt-A-Drain San Francisco program, Pinellas County’s Adopt-A-Drain program is funded by Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s Bay mini-grant, which is made possible through the sales of their specialty license plate. Keep Pinellas Beautiful provides additional support.

Groups or individuals can submit an Adopt-A-Drain Pilot Program Interest form online. The Adopt-A-Drain coordinator will work with participants to select storm drains they will maintain. Once finalized, participants will receive free Adopt-A-Drain training and be asked to sign a volunteer waiver form. Upon completion of the training, participants will receive an Adopt-A-Drain kit to help keep their drain free from trash and debris and ensure their safety.

To sign up or learn more about this program, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/environmental/adopt-a-drain.htm.

Water managers in ever-growing Southwest Florida work to ensure the drinking water supply is safe

Southwest Florida prepares to meet the future water needs as 1,000 people move into the Sunshine State every day. Access to drinkable water has already reached a crisis level in places worldwide, which nonprofits and celebrities are working to fix.

The lack of access to drinkable water is devastating communities around the world, and Southwest Florida's water managers are working to make sure the same thing never happens here.

“We turn on our tap and water just comes out of the faucet,” said Robert Lucius Jr., who oversees a 60,000-acre watershed that spans Lee and Collier counties.

“We don’t really give it much thought."

In other parts of the world, however, having water to drink is always on everyone's mind.

UNICEF found in 2020 that about one-quarter of the world’s population does not have a reliable source of drinking water at home, and half do not have properly working sanitation systems. In places, the demand for water is outpacing the growth rate two-fold. In Africa and Southeast Asia, the United Nations reports clean water is either scarce or completely unavailable.

The dearth of clean water is deadly. Nearly half of the roughly 2.2 billion people who struggle to find enough clean water to drink will die of thirst, disease caused by ingesting tainted water, or the unsanitary conditions that are becoming endemic in water-starved countries. The UN found that more people worldwide have access to a cell phone than do a toilet.

The World Water Council, World Resources Institute, and Global Water Leaders join charities like Water.org and charity: water in working in most of the drought-plagued places in the world. Kristen Bell, Jay-Z and Matt Damon are among a group of Hollywood heavyweights who have thrown their substantial clout behind the effort to ensure everyone on the planet has access to fresh water.

Bell raised almost $70,000 for charity: water, a New York nonprofit focused on providing drinking water to developing countries. Rapper Jay-Z created a documentary in 2007, “Diary of Jay-Z: Water For Life,” and worked with MTV and the UN to develop an clean-water advocacy campaign. Damon co-founded Water.org, which works to help families in struggling countries build sanitation systems and maintain a clean water supply.

“Access to water is access to education, access to work, access above all to the kind of future we want for our own families and all the members of our human family," Damon said on his organization's website. “You cannot solve poverty without solving water and sanitation.”

Increasing populations as well as climate change are but two of the things contributing to water woes, around the world and in Florida. More people mean more of a need for fresh water on a planet with a finite amount of it, and more than 1,000 people move into the Sunshine State every day. A warming planet means hotter air temperatures that increase evaporation, robbing reservoirs of drinking water.

The water woes in Southwest Florida are not nearly as bad as they are in other parts of the world, but not enough water still causes a host of problems in the region. Countless hours are spent by the region’s water managers divvying up the supply so the situation here doesn’t ever approach the struggles other parts of the world are having. And plans are being made now for decades in the future so water woes won’t sneak up on Southwest Florida’s residents.

Concerned by sea level rise, Tarpon Springs looks to fix area plagued by tidal flooding

The city wants public input on its plan to fix the problematic intersection during a Wednesday night meeting

As the threat of sea-level rise makes the threat more concerning, the city [of Tarpon Springs] is looking for ways to mitigate localized flooding.

“[Tarpon Springs] is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storm events and future planning efforts should seek to identify these vulnerabilities and provide mitigating policy direction,” city staff wrote in a recent report.

In the first phase of a new project, the city will take one step toward that goal. It wishes to raise and rebuild the intersection of Spring Blvd. and MLK Dr. to make traffic flow better and the flooding less severe.

"Either we do a typical four-way stop or a roundabout," said the Tarpon Springs Project Administration Director, Bob Robertson.

In a second phase, it wants to look broader at other flood-prone spots on the bayou to see how it can help improve those spots too.

"One way would be raising the roadway. Another would be installing a concrete wall, a vertical wall, and a third would be an earth and berm type solution," said Robertson.

Experts: Tampa Bay can be a leader in flood mitigation strategies

Tampa Bay has an opportunity to showcase a new way of mitigating storms and sea-level rise, according to out-of-town leaders hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Dozens of professionals in fields ranging from landscape architecture to hydrology convened in Tampa Bay for a three-part charrette that began last week. They mapped out flood solutions for North Tampa and Pass-A-Grille Beach; they will conclude in Oldsmar on Thursday and then return on June 23 for a symposium to discuss their findings.

Flooding is a long-term problem that the region can't ignore, said Andy Sternad, architect at New Orleans-based Waggoner & Ball. He appreciated that the regional planning council accommodated innovative solutions that — at least at the beginning of the process — ignore the restrictive permitting regulations currently in place.

Fishermen and scientists probe phosphate's connection to Florida red tides

Florida Commercial Waterman Conservation (FCWC) was founded in 2018.

A gap between real-time data and the academic resources that can steer policy inspired the idea to enlist fishermen, who have the holistic knowledge of the ocean, as data collectors, says Chris Kelble, director of the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

“Casey [Streeter] volunteered for a research cruise with me. The idea for the nonprofit stemmed from us sitting on the deck of the boat talking one night in between stations where we were taking water samples. He was instrumental in helping guide where to sample, because he knew exactly where the worst places were,” Kelble says. “Our goal this spring is to be able to communicate and let folks know about the likelihood of there being significant hypoxia. If there are excess nutrients coming off the land, this promotes red tide.”

FCWC is composed of half a dozen local volunteers and fishermen, in addition to Streeter. “We have mostly been focusing our testing in our immediate areas of southwest Florida,” he says, “but we did have a boat test off of Tampa during the red tide last year and as far north as Panama City. We would like to grow this program to all regions of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Fear of new sea walls quelled following Manatee County comprehensive plan change

Citizens concerned about protecting the environment breathed a sigh of relief when Manatee County approved changes to its comprehensive plan without language to allow new sea walls for flood mitigation.

Commissioners approved a comprehensive plan amendment last week to comply with Florida's Peril of Flood Act, which was approved in 2015. The act requires Florida's coastal communities to address flood risks, such as high tide, storm surge, flash floods, stormwater runoff, and sea-level rise.

The change sparked concern among community members who oppose the use of sea walls or fill material to mitigate sea-level rise, citing the detrimental impact on mangroves and surrounding coastal habitats, as well as the impact on neighboring properties.

To comply, the county was required to add language to the comprehensive plan that allows property owners to "consider new development and redevelopment principles, strategies and engineering solutions that reduce flood losses" and insurance claims.