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

Water-Related News

Get recognized for “Water-Wise” landscaping

The deadline to apply is August 31st. Landscapes in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties are eligible.

CLEARWATER — If you have an attractive, water-efficient landscape, now is the time to enter the 2020 Tampa Bay Community Water Wise Awards. Winners receive a custom garden stone, recognition by local elected officials and neighborhood bragging rights.

Getting your hands on the coveted award stone requires balancing Florida-friendly plants and landscape elements with attractive design and minimal maintenance, as well as using efficient irrigation techniques that reduce water use. To see if your landscape has what it takes to win, visit awards.tampabaywaterwise.org to apply by August 31. Landscapes must be established for, at least, 12 months to be eligible for an award.

“We work with the community through the Tampa Bay Community Water Wise Awards program to encourage efficient use of our water resources and to protect our drinking water sources from pollution,” said Amelia Brown, demand management program manager for Tampa Bay Water.

Tampa Bay Water, in partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) County Extension Offices and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, is looking to recognize residents, local businesses and community organizations who are committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by using best practices to create attractive, water-efficient landscapes. All entries are reviewed by representatives of the University of Florida IFAS County Extension, followed by on-site evaluations for landscapes that meet the core criteria.

Water-wise landscapes benefit residents and the environment because they use less water and require minimal maintenance.

Reduced Water Use: Choosing Florida-friendly plants suited to Florida’s natural environment require less water. Native and Florida-friendly plants thrive in the local environment and are typically drought tolerant.

Minimal Maintenance: Water-wise landscapes typically have less turf grass and use plants that require less upkeep. Plant the right plants in the right places and, once established, the landscape requires little maintenance.

Protecting the Environment: Selecting pest-resistant plants, fertilizing appropriately and reducing stormwater runoff are all elements of water-wise landscapes that also protect the environment and drinking water sources.

About the Community Water Wise Awards

The Tampa Bay Community Water Wise Awards program is designed to recognize attractive, water-conserving landscapes in various water-use sectors (e.g., homes, businesses, industry and government). The program seeks to identify actual examples of outstanding Florida-friendly, water-wise landscaping and to promote those principles within the community. To learn more, visit awards.tampabaywaterwise.org.

Rainy season fertilizer restrictions run June 1-Sept. 30

Pinellas County’s rainy season fertilizer restrictions take effect Monday, June 1, and run through Sept. 30.

Residents and landscapers are reminded that the County’s Fertilizer Ordinance prohibits the sale or application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus during that timeframe. Phosphorus cannot be used at any time of the year unless a soil test confirms it is needed. Also, fertilizer can never be applied within 10 feet from the top of a slope leading to a seawall, wetland or waterbody.

The County regulates landscape maintenance practice all year. Homeowners, landscapers and lawn care services must follow the practices outlined in the ordinance to protect water quality. All landscapers and fertilizer applicators who provide services within the county are required to display a Pinellas County-certification vehicle decal.

The nitrogen/phosphorus ban helps prevent fertilizer runoff from negatively affecting lakes, ponds, rivers, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and from leaching into groundwater. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus can cause harmful algae blooms that lower oxygen levels and lead to fish kills. Water quality testing by Pinellas County Environmental Management has shown significant reductions in both total nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients in our waterbodies since the ordinance was enacted.

Pinellas County recommends using summer-safe lawn care products and landscaping best management practices to keep a healthy landscape during the summer:

  • Look for products with “0-0” as the first two numbers on the fertilizer label.
  • Apply iron to keep lawns green during the summer without increasing growth.
  • Use compost to enrich soil.
  • Set lawn mower blade heights between 3½ to 4 inches for St. Augustine and Bahia turf to encourage deep roots that resist drought, fungus and pests.
  • Buy plants adapted to Florida’s hot and humid climate and plant them in places that suit their sun and water needs.
  • Use the reclaimed water nutrient concentration map to help reduce application of excess nitrogen to landscapes from October through May each year.

Pinellas County is one of more than 90 Florida communities that have summertime fertilizer restrictions.

Landscapers and residents looking for more tips on landscape practices, reclaimed water, and fertilizer application can visit www.pinellascounty.org/fertilizer.

Commission approves $1M for Florida Gulf Coast wetland projects

WASHINGTON - As we celebrate American Wetlands Month, hundreds of bird species will benefit from $160 million in funding for various wetland conservation projects in North America. The funding was approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which is chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Of the approved funds, the Commission allocated $22.1 million under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 160,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds for 22 projects in 15 U.S. states. Partners will match these grants with an additional $50 million.

“These dollars are from our great conservationists – the hunters and anglers who purchase migratory bird stamps,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “These efforts support local economies and wildlife in numerous ways. As the country continues to reopen, access to outdoor spaces is more important than ever, and we are doing our part to maintain public access and conserve natural habitats.”

One Florida project will receive funding. The Gulf Coast Watersheds Conservation will receive $1 million to restore and acquire 6,671 acres of wetlands and hardwood forest in Florida’s Gulf Coast area. These watersheds are critical in supporting a variety of migratory bird species.

Report: Tampa Bay, Sarasota-Bradenton metros most at risk for storm surge

As Florida prepares to enter its hurricane season on June 1, Tampa and Bradenton have ranked among the metropolitan areas most at risk for storm surges.

In a report from CoreLogic, an Irvine, California-based provider of property data, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ranked as the third most at risk for single-family residences and the fifth most at risk for multifamily. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton ranked as the eighth most at risk metro for single-family residences and came in at No. 11 for multifamily residences.

The metros were ranked on two categories:

  • The numbers of residences at risk
  • The estimated reconstruction cost value (RCV), which is calculated using the combined cost of construction materials as well as equipment and labor assuming total (100 percent) destruction of the property

The Tampa metro has 466,444 single-family residences at risk of storm surges with an estimated cost of $83.42 billion in RCVs. For multifamily residences, the Tampa metro has 12,068 at risk with an estimated RCV of $3.29 billion.

The Bradenton metro has about 266,719 single-family residences at risk with an estimated RCV of $53.76 billion. For multifamily, the Bradenton metro has 3,248 residences at risk with an estimated RCV of $0.87 billion.

SWFWMD “Splash! Grants” bring water education to students

The Splash! school grant program provides up to $3,000* per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources issues. Public and charter school teachers of grades K-12 are eligible to apply. 

As the school year comes to a close, so does another successful season of the District’s Splash! school grant program. This year the District awarded 65 Splash! grants to K-12 educators to help enhance and support water education activities. In total the grants engaged more than 20,000 students and adults.

For many educators, the Splash! grant program enables them to give students hands-on experiences that otherwise would not occur. This may include a field study at a local waterway, building and maintaining a water-conserving garden, conducting a water conservation outreach campaign and more.

In providing feedback on this year’s grant, one teacher at South Sumter Middle School stressed the importance of receiving grant funds.

“The Splash! grant is an integral part of my curricular goals each year since other funding is unavailable. It is only through programs like Splash! that I can dedicate the time and effort to educate our students on ways to protect and conserve water resources in our state.”

Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will be available in July and are due August 31, 2019. No exceptions will be made.

The District is grateful to be able to provide support to educators through the Splash! grant program, helping to inform and inspire our future decision makers and leaders. To learn more about the Splash! grant program click here.

*Grants are awarded based on available funding.

Parts of Robinson Preserve to close as expansion project resumes May 26th

MANATEE COUNTY – Work is set to resume on the final construction phases at Manatee County's popular Robinson Preserve Expansion. The Parks and Natural Resources Department will oversee habitat restoration on 135 acres located at the expansion area of Manatee County’s most popular natural preserve.

Public access will be closed to the construction area but all other trails into Robinson Preserve will remain open to the public, including the grounds of the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology (the NEST). [Please check the Parks Closures page to see if the NEST itself is open.]

The $2.8 million restoration project will begin May 26 and last approximately seven months. During the project, heavy equipment will be used to enhance fisheries habitat, and install native plants. Crews will also use the closure time to construct new pavilions, restrooms, kayak storage tubes, benches and trailside shade structures. The habitat restoration project, partially funded with BP Oil Spill dollars, is designed to local fisheries, and restore native habitats. The project is being funded through a combination of grants including a $1.5 million contribution from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a result of the Deep Water Horizon/BP Oil spill. The remaining $500,000 comes from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Tampa Bay Water files ‘forever chemicals’ lawsuit against DuPont, 3M

The utility serves more than 2.5 million customers. A spokesperson said Tampa Bay Water has not detected dangerous levels of the chemicals in its supply but is taking an 'initial step’ amid evolving science.

Tampa Bay Water, the regional supplier of drinking water for more than 2.5 million people, is suing chemical companies including DuPont and 3M over environmental contamination from flame retardants, according to court records.

The utility’s filing May 14 places it among a growing number of organizations calling for damages from the corporations for the release of “forever chemicals” — certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which studies show may hurt human health. The case references pollution from a particular type of foam used to fight fires, which has been connected to training sites, military bases and airports. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection lists MacDill Air Force Base as one place with a confirmed presence of at least one contaminant. Flame-retardant foam has also been tied to tainted wells near the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.

Health of Hillsborough River in Tampa is improving

Twenty years ago, the Hillsborough River that runs through the heart of Tampa was severely damaged. Withdrawals for the city’s growing population had starved it of fresh water, making it unfriendly to wildlife.

But thanks to a recovery plan developed in 2007 by environmental groups, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the City of Tampa and others, that’s changed.

Phil Compton is a local organizer for the Sierra Club and co-founded Friends of the River in 1999 to rally support for the Hillsborough River.

“In the last 12 years we’ve seen a lot of the fish and wildlife come back,” he said. “So you see you have the conditions for the little fish, the anchovies and then you see the bigger fish like snook and dolphins coming upriver now, which we didn’t used to see here.”

The river recovery plan that improved the environment for fish and birds and other wildlife requires releasing water into the river from a variety of sources to maintain minimum flows. It also requires the Water Management District to review the status of the river every five years for 15 years. The second five-year review is set to be filed with the District Board on Tuesday.

River advocates say the river still needs more fresh water.

Sargassum seaweed could return to Florida’s beaches in coming weeks

A burgeoning field of burdensome sargassum is making its way from the eastern Caribbean to South Florida with researchers estimating an early July arrival depending on winds and current.

The bloom of brown macroalgae is not expected to be the deep onslaught experienced in the record-breaking year of 2018, but a University of South Florida forecast is calling for an amount similar to 2015 — an above-average year that saw Palm Beach County beaches blanketed well into December.

Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida oceanography professor who publishes a monthly sargassum forecast based on satellite observations, said the floating rainforest could reach the Florida Straits next month. From there, it would hitch a ride in the Gulf Stream current north.

Sea turtle nesting season gets underway

With our public beaches reopening today, Pinellas County is reminding everyone to keep conditions safe for sea turtles to thrive.

During nesting season, residents and beach visitors should do the following:

  • Turn off outside lights, draw drapes and avoid using flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • Remove obstacles such as sand castles or sand pits that may make it too difficult for hatchlings to make their way to the shoreline.
  • Keep the beach clean. Eliminate trash items that may entangle baby hatchlings and adult turtles.
  • Do not approach or harass adult turtles as they make their way back to sea.
  • If residents spot turtle tracks or a possible nest, and it does not appear to be protected by stakes or ribbon, call 1-888-404-3922.

Loggerheads are the most common sea turtle to nest in Pinellas County, and females generally nest from early May through August. The eggs in each nest will typically incubate for 50 to 60 days before hatching.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium monitors the beaches from Clearwater Beach through Indian Shores. Sand to Sea Inc. monitors the beaches from Redington Shores through Treasure Island, and Sea Turtle Trackers monitors the beaches of St Pete Beach, Shell Key and Outback Key. Honeymoon Island State Park rangers monitor the nests there.

Staff members conduct early-morning patrols to locate new nesting sites. Citizens should not pick up hatchlings heading toward the water, shine lights or use photo equipment with a flash. Hatchlings use starlight and moonlight reflecting off the water to find their way to the ocean, and if they become misled by artificial light, they can become disoriented and die.

Besides checking the beaches every morning for signs of new nests, nestin

Temporary Change in Irrigation Hours for Area of South Hillsborough County

Impacted water customers have later morning irrigation window through June 30

Approximately 77,000 commercial and residential property owners south of the Alafia River and west of Balm Riverview Road in the southern part of Hillsborough County have new morning irrigation hours through June 30, 2020. On May 6, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a temporary change in the County's water conservation ordinance in order to help relieve low water pressure issues for customers on the South-Central water system during peak morning hours.

New Irrigation Hours

Irrigation of new and established landscaping at impacted properties is allowed once, between either 8:30 a.m. and noon or 6 p.m. and midnight on assigned days. No irrigation is permitted for these customers between midnight and 8:30 a.m., or between noon and 6 p.m. Irrigation days, hours for reclaimed water, and other water use restrictions have not changed.

Water pressure in the County's southern service area is becoming dangerously low, primarily associated with the irrigation of new and existing lawns and landscaping during normal early-morning indoor water peaks as people start their days at home and work. Shifting demand peaks is especially important as the region enters the traditional dry season, where increasing temperatures and low rainfall result in high- water use for supplemental landscape irrigation. Periods of extreme low pressure in the water system could result in precautionary boil water notices for customers, and impact public safety by lowering available fire flow pressure.

The year-round water use restrictions for other areas of Hillsborough County remain unchanged. All utility customers and residents are asked to conserve water and eliminate any wasteful and unnecessary water use, especially by finding and fixing leaks.

For questions about Hillsborough County's water use restrictions,

Temporary Change in Irrigation Hours for Area of South Hillsborough County

Impacted water customers have later morning irrigation window through June 30

Approximately 77,000 commercial and residential property owners south of the Alafia River and west of Balm Riverview Road in the southern part of Hillsborough County have new morning irrigation hours through June 30, 2020. On May 6, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a temporary change in the County's water conservation ordinance in order to help relieve low water pressure issues for customers on the South-Central water system during peak morning hours.

New Irrigation Hours

Irrigation of new and established landscaping at impacted properties is allowed once, between either 8:30 a.m. and noon or 6 p.m. and midnight on assigned days. No irrigation is permitted for these customers between midnight and 8:30 a.m., or between noon and 6 p.m. Irrigation days, hours for reclaimed water, and other water use restrictions have not changed.

Water pressure in the County's southern service area is becoming dangerously low, primarily associated with the irrigation of new and existing lawns and landscaping during normal early-morning indoor water peaks as people start their days at home and work. Shifting demand peaks is especially important as the region enters the traditional dry season, where increasing temperatures and low rainfall result in high- water use for supplemental landscape irrigation. Periods of extreme low pressure in the water system could result in precautionary boil water notices for customers, and impact public safety by lowering available fire flow pressure.

The year-round water use restrictions for other areas of Hillsborough County remain unchanged. All utility customers and residents are asked to conserve water and eliminate any wasteful and unnecessary water use, especially by finding and fixing leaks.

For questions about Hillsborough County's water use restrictions, call the Water Conservation Team at (813) 663-3295.