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

Water-Related News

Pasco County Health Dept. renews Health Alert for Lake Blanton

PASCO COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Blanton Lake. This is in response to a water sample taken on February 13, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Blanton Lake. 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 bloomsare 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 well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

For updates, visit the Florida DEP Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Blue-green algae was first observed in Lake Blanton in September 2023.

Photographer: Inland development is destroying Florida–s coastal freshwater wetlands

The object of Benjamin Dimmitt's pictorial and editorial attention has deteriorated significantly over the last few decades.

With the exception of its northern border with Alabama and Georgia, Florida is entirely surrounded by water. The state’s world famous sandy beaches make up about 825 miles of that coastline, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But wetlands comprise several hundred more miles of the Florida coast. And contrary to popular belief, the majority of those wetlands are not salt water, but fresh water. Their source is the outflow from the gigantic Floridan Aquifer that underlies Florida. But as Florida’s population has grown, the size and condition of those wetlands seems to be on the decline. That’s the subject of a new book by noted naturalist and photographer Benjamin Dimmitt. It’s entitled: “An Unflinching Look: Elegy for Wetlands.” In it he documents – in both words and images – the profound changes in the Chassahowitzka National Refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Invasive grass species threatens Braden River ecosystem

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission uses liquid copper to rid the Braden River of tape grass, an aquatic plant that could dominate native vegetation and damage wildlife.

Standing at a dock at Jiggs Landing last week, Denise Kleiner grabbed a fishing net, and poked its handle into the water of the Bill Evers Reservoir.

She pulled the handle out of the water, and it was covered by a large clump of what many of us would call seaweed. It was a big ball of dripping, grass-like goo.

"There is some of it there," Kleiner said, pointing at a few different spots on the gooey ball.

Kleiner, the general manager of the Jiggs Landing Preserve and president of Florida Boat Tours, was pointing out what she called eelgrass, or the Old World Tape Grass that currently is plaguing the Braden River. They are very similar and yet dangerously different.

While eelgrass is generally considered an aquatic plant that is native to the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is on the lookout for Old World Tape Grass.

Florida Fish and Game has sent biologists and other employees on a regular basis to launch boats at Jiggs Landing to travel up and down the Braden River looking for the invasive plant. On a wall next to the rest rooms as you enter Jiggs Landing is somewhat of a wanted poster with the headline "Invasive Plant Advisory."

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."

Report: Florida received D– in coastal management and sea level rise preparations

The Surfrider Foundation took a look at how states are preparing for sea level rise, erosion and future infrastructure.

Florida's beaches span hundreds of miles, providing entertainment and an escape for folks to relax.

But our coastlines are under nearly constant threat, and according to a new report by The Surfrider Foundation, our beaches are degrading more and more every year.

The Surfrider Foundation took a look at how states are preparing for sea level rise, erosion, and future infrastructure.

The foundation's latest report shows that Florida decreased from a C– in 2022 to a D– in 2023 for these categories.

Local scientists attribute the issues to rising sea levels and more intense storms.

The Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory panel predicts that the Tampa Bay Area could experience sea level rise of up to 2.5 feet by 2050.

"We have choices to adapt or to maladapt," said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

During listening session, exasperated St. Pete flood victims ask city to do more

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As a widow and mom of four kids, Jennifer Connell-Wandstrat has enough to worry about, but right now, her stress load is even bigger.

“The stress level is through the roof,” she said. “I mean, trauma responses where you just don’t even have any emotions anymore because you’ve just gone through them all.”

Her biggest worry right now is her neighborhood and what happens to it during storms and periods of high tide.

“We’ve flooded twice in the last three years,” she said.

She lives in Shore Acres, which is just one of the St. Petersburg neighborhoods that experiences frequent flooding that Mayor Ken Welch says is getting worse.

“And it’s evident that we are seeing elevated impacts from sea level rise and climate change,” the mayor said.

In a Tuesday night meeting, Mayor Welch and city leaders outlined what the city is doing in response, including stormwater infrastructure upgrading, frequently clearing drains and sweeping streets, and studying which areas are most vulnerable and need immediate fixes.

“We are putting together an elevated response,” Welch said.

However, during the meeting, city leaders also took time to listen and heard frustration, exasperation, and desperation.

New proposal would allow for water line extensions in rural Hillsborough County

ODESSA – A new proposal would allow water and wastewater line connections in rural areas of Hillsborough County.

County planners say concerns from stakeholders are part of what’s inspiring a change to a current policy that only allows for wells and septic tanks.

“These changes are based on some concerns that were raised about the impacts of septic tanks, particularly concentrating a large number of septic tanks to one area,” said Melissa Zornitta, Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission.

Hillsborough County’s current policy only allows water line extensions to rural areas under certain conditions.

“If there is a health issue like somebody’s well has gone bad or if there’s a school in the area,” Zornitta shared.

Odessa’s Keystone community is one location that would be affected. Resident Melissa Nordbeck fears the change would lead developers to build more projects.

Keep Pasco Beautiful invites volunteers to help with Great American Cleanup

Pasco County logo

Pasco County is known for its wide-open spaces and beautiful waterways that offer a great quality of life. Keeping our county clean is a top priority for Keep Pasco Beautiful – and that’s why the non-profit is again partnering with Pasco County to recruit volunteers for the annual Great American Cleanup!

Event Details:

  • WHEN: Saturday, March 2, 2024
  • WHERE: Various Locations
  • Volunteer registration is open through February 23, 2024. CLICK HERE to register now!

Disposable gloves, trash bags and Great American Cleanup T-shirts will be provided while supplies last.

“Cleanups are not just about picking up trash; they also play a crucial role in litter prevention,” said Keep Pasco Beautiful Coordinator Ligia Martello Buchala. “This event is committed to making a positive impact on our community, and each year we go above and beyond to make a difference.”

In 2023, 780 volunteers picked up nearly 14.5 tons of trash at 43 locations throughout Pasco. This year, the goal is to increase the number of volunteers so we can clean more sites. This event is a partnership with Keep Pasco Beautiful, Pasco County Public Works, Pasco County Solid Waste, Covanta Pasco and Tampa Bay Water.

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

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.

Reclaimed water service restored to northwest Hillsborough County

Hillsborough County logo

UPDATE – Feb. 8, 2024 – Customers Can Now Irrigate Using Reclaimed Water

Hillsborough County Water Resources has repaired the issue at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility, and reclaimed water has been restored for customers in the northwest area of the county.

The issue caused the shutdown of reclaimed water used for irrigation for customers residing west of Interstate 275 and just south of Van Dyke Road, including the neighborhoods of Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila. The issue never affected drinking water.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 307-1000.

Map of the affected area »


Original notices follow

UPDATE – Jan. 31, 2024 – Issue impacts irrigation water; drinking water is safe to drink and use

Hillsborough County Water Resources crews continue to work on the issue at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility that has impacted the use of reclaimed water for some customers in the northwest area of the county.

At this time, reclaimed water in northwest Hillsborough County continues to be shut down for customers who reside west of Interstate 275 and just south of Van Dyke Road. The larger neighborhoods affected include Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila. An estimated 11,000 homes are impacted.

Hillsborough County Water Resources reminds residents that this outage only impacts the reclaimed water used for irrigation. This does not affect drinking water. Drinking water is safe for everyone to use and drink. Residential customers in the impacted area won't be able to use reclaimed water until repairs are complete, and the sprinkler systems on reclaimed water will not function while repairs continue.

Hillsborough County Water Resources will provide an update as soon as it's available.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 307-1000.


Residents in neighborhoods such as Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila are affected

Hillsborough County Water Resources is reporting that reclaimed water in northwest Hillsborough County is not available at this time due to a problem at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility.

Reclaimed water - which is used for irrigation -- in northwest Hillsborough County has been shut down for customers who reside west of Interstate 275 and just south of Van Dyke Road. The larger neighborhoods affected include Carrollwood, Westchase, Northdale, and Avila. An estimated 11,000 residential homes are impacted.

Crews are on-site addressing the situation and anticipate having the repairs completed this week (Jan. 29-Feb. 2).

Hillsborough County Water Resources emphasizes that this impacts the reclaimed water used for irrigation at these residential homes. This does not affect drinking water. Drinking water is safe for everyone to use and drink. Residential customers in the impacted area won't be able to use reclaimed water until repairs are complete, and the sprinkler systems on reclaimed water will not function.

Hillsborough County Water Resources will provide an update on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 307-1000.

Tampa Bay Water: More conservation is needed as spring dry-season approaches

TBW logo

CLEARWATER – El Niño rainfall, cooler weather and watering restrictions have helped lower water use in the Tampa Bay area; however, the region remains in a Stage 1 Drought Alert with the driest months of the year fast-approaching.

Tampa Bay Water asks residents to continue water-thrifty habits into March, April and May, which are the driest months of the year in Tampa Bay.

Residents should not overwater this spring and only water on their designated day. Outdoor watering in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties is limited to one-day-per-week per the Southwest Florida Water Management District water shortage order that took effect on Dec. 1, 2023. Residents can find their watering day by simply entering their zip codes at MyWaterDay.org.

Other ways to save water include:

  • Smart Lawn Watering: By skipping an irrigation cycle when it rains or has rained, you can save between 1,500 and 2,500 gallons of water.
  • Leak Detection: The average family can waste 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually, from household leaks.
  • Toilet Flapper Check: A warped or poorly fitting flapper can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day and may cost you hundreds of dollars a year.
  • Turn Off the Tap: Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day.
  • Maximize Dishwasher and Laundry Loads: Running the dishwasher only when it's full can save the average family nearly 320 gallons of water annually.
  • Hose Nozzle Usage: Using a hose nozzle saves about 8 gallons per minute by keeping the water from running constantly.
  • Fix Broken Sprinklers: A broken sprinkler can waste 25,000 gallons of water in six months.
  • Get rebates for water-efficient upgrades: Install water efficient fixtures and technology and receive rebates through the Tampa Bay Water Wise program.

Regional water facts as of Feb. 1, 2024:

  • The region remains in a Stage 1 Drought Alert due to an 8.3-inch rainfall deficit averaged over the past 12 months.
  • Rainfall in January averaged about 2.7 inches, 0.2 inches below normal.
  • Average river flows are in a 9.1 million gallons per day (mgd) deficit when looking at the past 12 months. When river flows are lower, less water is available to support the regional surface water system.
  • Regional water demands in January averaged 186.77 mgd 7.43 mgd higher than January 2023, but 4.38 mgd lower than demands in December 2023.
  • The C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir is at 7.1 billion gallons, 46% of its 15.5-billion-gallon capacity, which helps maintain water supply to the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant.

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.

LBK’s Sleepy Lagoon residents urge higher priority for drainage improvement

Longboat Key drainage projects are on the way, but the first won't begin construction until 2025.

Flooding isn’t a new issue on Longboat Key, but some on the island's North End say that houses flooding is a new problem that's only getting worse.

That’s what led the Sleepy Lagoon Homeowners Board and Drainage Committee to send a letter to the town, urging for a more consolidated effort for the drainage improvements the town has planned.

“Peoples’ houses are actually flooding, that’s a fairly new phenomenon,” John Connolly, president of the Sleepy Lagoon HOA, said. “The streets are flooding, but that’s not a new phenomenon whatsoever.”

The town has projects on the agenda to improve drainage in key areas like the Village, Sleepy Lagoon and Buttonwood. But those projects will be completed in phases, and the soonest construction date is early 2025.

While much of the timeline is dependent on grants, the Sleepy Lagoon representatives feel the projects could be more consolidated in order to push things forward quicker.

The projects, though, won’t be an end to all flooding.

“We’re really talking about the rain and the tides, not the hurricanes,” drainage committee member Blythe Jeffers said.

Pasco to focus on future challenges from sea-level rise to next pandemic

A new department will coordinate efforts to snag funding available to avert threats on the horizon.

With Pasco County hugging the Gulf of Mexico, officials and residents have always known they are vulnerable. But hurricanes and sea-level rise are not the only potential threats in the county’s future.

To be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead, Pasco County government took a step earlier this month to improve the chances of being better able to effectively provide the services the community will need — no matter what.

The County Commission unanimously approved establishment of the Office of Strategy and Sustainability, a new county department that will coordinate efforts to prepare for that unknown future, said Marc Bellas, the county’s organizational performance manager.

A key part of that job will be to aggressively seek funding for projects that will help. Bellas said the county knows that larger jurisdictions to the south are already capitalizing on ways to do that. “It’s time for us to get on board,” said Bellas, who will lead the new effort.

UCF researchers estimate cost to tourism of 2018 red tide at $2.7 billion

A new study from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management has found that the loss to tourism-related businesses due to the 2018 Florida red tide bloom is estimated at approximately $2.7 billion.

The research, performed in collaboration with the University of South Florida and Florida A&M University, was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management. The work offers a profound understanding of the economic impacts of harmful algae blooms (HABs) on Florida’s tourism sector.

One of the most striking conclusions of the study is the relationship between the severity of red tide blooms and their economic impact on tourism.

Contrary to expectations, the study reveals that low concentrations of red tide can have disproportionate economic impacts compared to more intense blooms.

This finding underscores the importance of how red tide information is communicated and perceived, influencing its economic fallout.

“The magnitude of losses from red tide show how important it is for the Federal and State governments to allocate appropriate resources for response and recovery to harmful algae blooms in our coastal communities,” says Sergio Alvarez, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Rosen College.

“In addition, coastal tourism businesses should consider harmful algae as a very real risk to the economic sustainability of their operations,” he says. “It is essential that we find appropriate risk management tools for individuals, businesses, and communities that may suffer the economic impacts of harmful algae blooms.”

Water Quality Advisory issued for Picnic Island Beach

FDOH logo

TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) has issued a water quality advisory for the following location:

Picnic Island Beach
7409 Picnic Island Blvd
Tampa, FL 33616

Tests completed on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, indicate that the water quality at Picnic Island Beach does not meet the recreational water quality criteria for Enterococcus bacteria recommended by the Florida Department of Health.

DOH-Hillsborough advises against any water-related activities at this location due to the potential for high bacteria levels. Bacteriological sampling conducted during regular water quality monitoring showed that the level of bacteria exceeds the level established by state guidelines.

This advisory will continue until bacteria levels are below the accepted health level. New test results should be available for Picnic Island Beach on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

For more information call 813-559-4065 or visit the Florida Healthy Beaches Program website.

Rubonia resilience summit held

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – Community leaders, pastors and concerned citizens gathered Wednesday night (January 24, 2024) at the Bible Baptist Church of Palmetto to talk about ways to support this historic—and historically flood prone—community.

Manatee County partnered with the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and FEMA to help residents in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ian and Idalia and even a recent no-name storm, but leaders are seeing a need to provide proactive measures.

“We have to face the challenges of flooding in that area because it’s a low area,” said Manatee County District 3 Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge. “And as we’re getting higher and higher tides, it’s becoming a more prominent problem in Rubonia.”

Manatee County Public Safety Director Jodie Fiske addressed the Rubonia Resilience Summit with plans to bring emergency preparedness training into the community, as well as working with Public Safety to form a robust County support team.

“We’re talking about how we can better engage the community and get to a point where they are really proactive with us in public safety and emergency management to be self-sufficient,” said Fiske.

The County has committed to continuing meeting with the community to help provide training and education. The idea is that this participation from the neighborhood will ensure local support so that there is not a heavy dependence on outside entities.

“Our hope here is to build the conversation so that we can support our own communities instead of having someone come in to support us,” said Tarnisha Cliatt, President/Founder & CEO of the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce, who helped coordinate this summit. “This engagement of the community is key for all participants.”

“I understand the importance of community pride,” said Commissioner Van Ostenbridge, “and the importance of ensuring that your community survives.”

See the video clip and learn more about the Rubonia Resilience Summit