Water-Related News

How floating wetlands are helping to clean up urban waters

As cities around the world look to rid their waterways of remaining pollution, researchers are installing artificial islands brimming with grasses and sedges. The islands’ surfaces attract wildlife, while the underwater plant roots absorb contaminants and support aquatic life.

Floating wetlands were first tested in retention ponds, the kind often located near developments to hold stormwater, to see if they filtered pollution. “The front end of it was, ‘Will they work? How well do they work? And what plants should we recommend?’” says Sarah White, an environmental toxicologist and horticulturalist at Clemson University who has worked on floating wetlands since 2006. Partnering with researchers at Virginia Tech, White found that the wetland plants she tested not only did well in ponds with lots of nutrient pollution, but the adaptable, resilient plants actually thrived. She did not always choose native plants, opting instead for those that would make the islands more attractive, so that more urban planners would use them.

Polk County Health Dept. issues Health Alert for Lake Whistler-NE

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AUBURNDALE – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Whistler - NE. This is in response to a water sample taken on 11/03/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Whistler - NE

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. Water, where there are algae blooms, is 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 well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For more information about blue-green algae and other harmful algal blooms (HABs), please visit the link below.

FWC reminds owners unable to salvage their storm-damaged vessels that waivers are still available

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Vessel owners have until 45 days after Ian crossed the state to get their vessels out of derelict condition. The end of the grace period is Nov. 15.

Owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel to provide the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment. If they are unable to salvage their vessels, lack the resources to have their boat repaired or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, they may release ownership of their vessel.

Waivers are available for removal and destruction and owners will not be charged for any removal costs. This process can be initiated by contacting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and requesting to turn over a derelict vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership.

To date, the FWC has received approximately 50 waivers from affected boat owners in the Lee County area.

If a derelict vessel is not brought into compliance or removed from the water by Nov. 15, it will be treated as any other derelict vessel. At this time, the FWC will not be charging displaced vessel owners with a criminal violation of Florida law but the decision to hold vessel owners responsible for removal, destruction and disposal costs could be made at a future date.

FWC officers continue to work tirelessly with partner agencies to assess vessels displaced by Hurricane Ian. Over 3,000 vessels have been assessed and research teams are contacting owners and insurance companies to provide information, guidance and reunite vessel owners with their property.

We have water and land-based teams assessing vessels. If your vessel is missing or you have located a vessel on state waters displaced by the hurricane, please report it to our Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline: 850-488-5600. For all other vessels, the Division of Emergency Management has established a hotline for vessel and property owners at 850-961-2002. for vessels on land.

Public safety remains the number one priority at the FWC. The FWC would like to remind the public that officers a

SWFWMD recognizes 35th anniversary of SWIM program

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board recently recognized the 35th anniversary of the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management, or SWIM program, and its vital contributions to the region’s water resources. SWIM Program manager Vivianna Bendixson explains the positive impacts the program has made on major water bodies in the region.

Q: What is the SWIM Program?

A: The Surface Water Improvement and Management or SWIM Program evaluates priority water bodies, identifies issues and drivers, and implements projects to improve water quality and habitat. In 1987, the Florida Legislature established the SWIM Act to protect, maintain, and restore Florida’s surface water bodies. The Act required the five water management districts to identify and select a list of priority water bodies of statewide significance within their boundaries and develop programs to improve them. With the help of state agencies, local governments and other organizations, the SWIM Program focuses on water quality and natural systems restoration projects to accomplish these initiatives.

Q: What are the District’s priority water bodies?

A: Currently, the District’s 12 SWIM priority water bodies include: Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Weeki Wachee River, Chassahowitzka River, Homosassa River, Rainbow River, Crystal River/Kings Bay, Lake Panasoffkee, Lake Tarpon, Lake Thonotosassa and the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. The list of priority water bodies is updated every five years. The last update was approved in 2020.

FWC assessing thousands of ‘displaced’ vessels in the wake of Ian

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FWC continues to assess thousands of vessels 1 month after Hurricane Ian landfall

Hurricane Ian displaced over 7,000 vessels on both land and water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has deployed a second wave of officers to join local FWC personnel and partner agencies in assessing these vessels. Since the assessment process began, the FWC has received hundreds of calls on its Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline (850-488-5600) and has assessed over 2,100 vessels displaced on state waters Research teams are contacting owners and insurance companies to provide information, guidance and reunite vessel owners with their property.

“Wave One of the FWC Displaced Vessel Deployment Team returned home after a very productive two weeks in the field. This group of 16 dedicated officers worked long hours on the waters of Lee County, locating derelict vessels and contacting owners. Wave Two is now in place and will carry on with the mission,” said FWC Boating and Waterways Section Representative Capt. Travis Franklin. “I’m proud of the work accomplished by these officers as they help reunite owners with their boats, while facilitating the removal of derelict vessels from our waterways.”

This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced efforts to expedite identifying and removing vessels and debris from the area affected by Hurricane Ian. The FWC is working closely with the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard and local governments to identify and remove vessels and other debris from waterways and upland private and commercial properties. The newly created State Debris Cleanup Program will assist Hurricane Ian survivors with the removal of displaced and abandoned titled property. Residents can request the removal of debris including vehicles, vessels, motorcycles, trailers and ATVs. To make a request, visit IanDebrisCleanup.com to report the presence of debris.

Owners of derelict vessels who lack the resources to have their boat repaired, or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, may release ownership of their vessel. This process can be initiated by contacting the FWC through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and requesting to turn over a derelict vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership. To date, the FWC has received approximately 50 waivers from affected boat owners.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, will mark the end of the 45-day period for vessel owners to either remove a derelict boat from the waters of the state or bring it into a non-derelict condition. If a derelict vessel is not brought into compliance or removed from the water by that day, it will be treated as any other derelict vessel. At this time, the FWC will not be charging displaced vessel owners with a criminal violation of Florida law but the decision to hold vessel owners responsible for removal, destruction and disposal costs could be made at a future date. Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel to provide the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment.

For questions related to vessel removal or recovery on state waters, to report storm damaged, lost or abandoned boats on state waters, or to initiate the waiver process, call the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 between the hours of 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday.

Public safety remains the number one priority at the FWC. The FWC would like to remind the public that officers will begin marking underwater navigational hazards with hazard buoys but there are still many underwater hazards. Pay close attention, use extreme caution, look out for submerged navigation aids and avoid areas where officers are working to mark or remove vessels.

SWFWMD: Check your irrigation timer when you ‘fall back’ to standard time

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents to check the timers on their irrigation system controllers this weekend, which is the end of daylight saving time.

Saturday night [Nov. 5th] is when we will turn our clocks back one hour. The time change is also a good time to make sure irrigation system timers are set correctly to ensure that the systems operate consistently with year-round water conservation measures.

All 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries are on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Citrus, Hernando, southern Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota counties and the cities of Dunedin, Longboat Key, Sarasota and Venice.

Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass:

  • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
  • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
  • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.