An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Orange County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Fish kills: Know who to call, what you can do to help

Localized fish kills reported in the Indian River Lagoon

PALM BAY — The St. Johns River Water Management District and other partners have received several reports of localized fish kills in the Indian River Lagoon over the past few days. District staff, along with Brevard County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program and others, are investigating. Preliminary information suggests that low dissolved oxygen concentrations may be the cause. Low oxygen concentrations (below 2 milligrams per liter or 30% saturation) often arise during an algal bloom like the one that has been occurring in the Indian River Lagoon.

Several reports have come from the State Road 528/520 portion of the lagoon. Low oxygen concentrations have been recorded at Titusville and near Cocoa, according to District scientists. Reduced levels of dissolved oxygen in the water stress fish and other species with little tolerance for low levels of dissolved oxygen.

District scientists routinely collect samples of water and algae, and analytical results are provided to other agencies, including the Florida Department of Health, FDEP and FWC. Since 2009, these agencies have operated under a plan that coordinates their responses to potentially harmful algal blooms.

To report an algal bloom, visit the FDEP website,

Protecting and restoring water quality is a core mission of the District — a key component of this work is water quality monitoring and reporting. Monitoring enables the District to base decisions about resources on accurate and timely information. For example, continuous, sensor-based information on water quality is available online at

While the District has partnered with state and local governments to implement dozens of projects that restore water quality and the health of the lagoon, the public also plays a vital role in reducing nutrient pollution, which decreases the likelihood of harmful algal blooms, the possibility that those blooms will reduce levels of oxygen, and the subsequent potential for fish kills. Citizens may wish to collect and dispose of the dead fish found along their waterfront property if it is safe to do so. This will help keep the nutrients in the decomposing fish from being released into the lagoon to fuel algal blooms. For more information on fish kills and to report a fish kill, visit FWC’s website at

To further reduce nutrient pollution, use fertilizers (which contain nutrients) only according to manufacturer directions and avoid using fertilizers just prior to rain. In addition, properly maintain stormwater systems, keep leaves and grass clippings out of storm drains and connect to a central sewer system where possible.

Herbicide Application on Lake Pearl West, 11/25

OCAlerts logo

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 11/25/20.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage hydrilla and emergent vegetation in the lake.


Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Orlando’s secret life of sewers: What workers hope you never know

It turns out that what’s flushed from much of north Orlando takes a 35-mile trip through a colossal system that has been under construction for most of a century. The wastewater disperses nearly 33 days later as highly treated effluent into marsh, through the legs of wood storks and roseate spoonbills and then to an expanse of cordgrass and sable palms of the St. Johns River.

This year, Fort Lauderdale was shamed officially for letting its sewer perform as a sieve; the governor cracked down on “bad actors” by boosting fines for spills; a watchdog called out Orange County’s wastewater system as a flagrant offender; and Orlando sounded an alert for a smelly incident at its premier cultural park.

Florida has hundreds of private and public sewers. They are vital for protecting human health. They can be an asset or a villain in the struggle to heal sickly rivers and coastal waters. Sewage challenges will amplify with population growth and as rising sea levels drown sewers of coastal cities.

EPA presents reuse award for former Orlando Naval Training Center

Agencies receive National Excellence in Site Reuse Awards

ORLANDO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented 2020 national Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse Awards to the U.S. Navy, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, City of Orlando, and Baldwin Park Development Company for the innovative reuse of the Former Naval Training Center in Orlando.

“For the past three years, we have recognized the important work our federal and state agency partners have contributed to cleanup and reuse at Superfund sites located at federal facilities,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Peter Wright. “I’m proud of the work conducted at the former Naval Training Center site. Their efforts created new economic assets for the City of Orlando by developing the former military site into mixed-use, industrial and recreational spaces.”

“EPA is honored to present the National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse Award to the Former Naval Training Center Orlando,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “This project is a successful demonstration of how public-private partnerships can restore properties in a manner that protects public health and serves as a catalyst for economic development and investment and creates jobs in these communities.”

The City of Orlando successfully partnered with federal, state and local stakeholders at the former Naval Training Center Orlando. Having served as an Army and Navy air training facility since the 1940’s, this 2,000-acre site closed in 1999 under the BRAC program. The team’s efforts in promoting public and private investments resulted in a renewed area consisting of a mixed-use, master-planned community, industrial facility and recreational spaces. Due to the collaborative efforts, the former Naval Training Center Orlando site has become an economic asset to the City of Orlando.

EPA has ongoing cleanup and property transfer responsibilities at 174 federal facility National Priorities List sites across the country, which are some of the largest and most complex sites within the Superfund program. The Trump Administration has made the Superfund program a top priority to advance the agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment. EPA’s Superfund Task Force is working to promote redevelopment and reuse of sites by encouraging investment in reuse outcomes. The federal facility sites receiving reuse awards serve as examples of the types of site investment that can occur at sites once owned by federal agencies.

EPA established the awards to recognize the teams who have supported the reuse and restoration of federal facility sites through outstanding efforts to ensure that sites are remediated to promote continued property use or support a site reuse, as well as provide educational opportunities about how the awardees’ sites were remediated and reused to serve as examples to other site remediators.

The awards are divided into four categories: National Priorities List (NPL) Sites, Non-NPL Cleanup, NPL Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), and Non-NPL BRAC.

For more information about the award, please visit:

For more information about cleanups at federal facilities, please visit:

Orange County Utilities honored with multiple water conservation and reuse awards

ORANGE COUNTY – Orange County Utilities’ water conservation and reuse programs were recently recognized by a distinguished environmental agency and a global educational organization.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named Orange County Utilities as a 2020 WaterSense Partner of the Year for demonstrating its commitment to water conservation by providing and promoting WaterSense-labeled products and fixtures independently certified to use less water and perform efficiently.

WaterSense, a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the EPA, is both a label for water-efficient products and a resource for helping consumers learn ways to save water. In 2019, WaterSense-labeled products, homes and programs helped consumers and businesses save 871 billion gallons of water, along with the energy used to heat that water and money on utility bills.

“Orange County Utilities continues to promote conservation of drinking water for our residents and visitors,” said Jacqueline Torbert, manager of the Orange County Utilities Water Division. “Conservation ensures that this most precious resource is available now and in the future. We’re extremely excited to be recognized for our efforts to fulfill this important responsibility.”

In addition to the EPA award, Orange County Utilities was recognized by the Water Environment Federation (along with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Research Foundation and the WateReuse Association) as a Utility of the Future Today honoree for its water reuse program. It was one of 65 utilities in the nation praised for transformational work in community engagement, watershed stewardship and recovery of resources such as water, energy and nutrients.

“We’re honored to be recognized by the Water Environment Federation and its partners for embracing innovative ways to better serve our community with our comprehensive program that beneficially reuses 100% of the wastewater,” said Mike Hudkins, manager of the Orange County Utilities Water Reclamation Division.

Orange County Utilities currently operates three regional water reclamation facilities that treat and reuse 60 million gallons per day of wastewater. Its extensive reuse system provides reclaimed water for agricultural, commercial and residential irrigation; aquifer recharge; wetlands and cooling water.

SJRWMD approves funding for ag projects that conserve water, reduce nutrients

District has funded more than 100 agricultural cost-share projects since July 2015

PALATKA — Nine agricultural projects will share in nearly $779,000 in cost-share funds from the St. Johns River Water Management District to improve water conservation and reduce nutrient loading to area waterways. Projects approved by the District’s Governing Board on Tuesday are estimated to collectively conserve 138 million gallons of water a year and reduce total nitrogen by 17,100 pounds and total phosphorus by 3,170 pounds per year.

“Since the program began in July 2015, we have funded 103 partnership projects to help farmers and growers implement projects that conserve water and result in nutrient load reductions,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Our program works to protect the environment and supports sustainable farming practices while also increasing farms’ production and quality.”

Per the project ranking approved by the board at Tuesday’s meeting, the following projects will receive funds this cycle:

  • Orange Bend Harvesting Inc., Lake County, precision fertilizer application equipment
  • Wild Goose Farms LLC, Marion County, precision fertilizer equipment and soil moisture sensors
  • Total Ag Care LLC, Orange County, irrigation retrofit and soil moisture sensors
  • Richard Davis, Lake County, irrigation retrofit
  • Sun Ag LLC, Indian River County, conversion to surface water
  • Cherrylake Inc., Lake County, soil moisture sensors and weather station
  • Estes Citrus Inc., Indian River County, portable tissue testing lab, soil moisture sensors
  • Lake Jem Farms Inc., Lake County, soil moisture sensors and precision fertilizer equipment
  • Underhill Ferneries Inc., Volusia County, precision fertilizer application equipment

The District received 13 applications for projects seeking funds through the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Districtwide Ag Cost-share Program for projects in the 15 counties outside the Tri-County Agricultural Area (portions of Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties), which has its own separate funding program for agricultural projects.

The types of projects eligible for funding include irrigation system retrofits, soil moisture and climate sensor telemetry, rainwater harvesting, subirrigation drain tile and more. The program is entirely voluntary and includes a requirement that funding recipients modify their consumptive use permits to memorialize the actual water reductions resulting from the District’s monetary contribution.

For information about District cost-share programs, visit

Experts brainstorm ways to meet growth demands while protecting water supplies

The Nature Conservancy's Florida Chapter estimates roughly 1,000 people were moving to Florida every day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter's Executive Director Temperince Morgan says that rapid growth is stretching the state's water resources.

"Our current demands are exceeding our current supplies from traditional sources. We're seeing drawdowns and impacts to springs, lakes, and wetlands and other water bodies around the state," Morgan says.

Morgan says demand for freshwater will keep going up, especially in places like Central Florida, where more people are choosing to live.

"In recent years, public water supply demand has, for the first time in Florida history, begun to exceed agricultural demand. And the vast majority of that public water supply demand is for irrigation. So, to irrigate our lawns," Morgan says.

Her group is partnering with the University of Florida and a developer to study a new irrigation-free community—meaning a neighborhood that replaces grassy lawns with plants that are meant to live in Florida's specific climate without the need for frequent watering.

City of Apopka seeking ways to halt flooding

Several areas around the city are seeing flooding issues thanks to above-average rainfall the area has received this year, Jeff Weatherford, the city’s Public Services director, told the City Council at its meeting on Wednesday, November 4.

He spoke about several areas that have flooding problems because of the 27-28 inches of rain received in the Apopka area this year.

One area that is most visible to the public is the retention pond located adjacent to Piedmont-Wekiwa Road at the southeast intersection with Semoran Boulevard (State Road 436).

That area is connected with Border Lake just east on the south side of SR 436, along with Lake Cortez that is across SR 436 from Border Lake near the Orange-Seminole county line.

Water from Border Lake is creeping toward SR 436, Weatherford said.

Girl Scout project tackles recycling fishing line at County boat ramps

In early 2020 Meagan Fawcett, then a 15-year-old sophomore at Lake Highland Preparatory School, approached Orange County Parks and Recreation with a detailed plan to replace or refurbish existing at multiple park locations for her Gold Award Girl Scout project.

Used fishing line left on the shoreline, on piers or docks, or in the water is harmful to fish, wildlife, people and boat motors. Fishing line or monofilament takes 600 years to disintegrate while in the water.

Replacing and refurbishing the containers was an issue personally near and dear to Meagan.

“I saw a monofilament recycling bin during a backstage tour of the hospital and research area at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and knew immediately it was what I wanted to do,” she explained. “It allowed me to combine my love of animals, fishing and the environment into one effort.”

For her work with Orange County, she replaced monofilament recycling bins at Barnett Park, Lake Down and Highway 50 boat ramps and emptied, cleaned and replaced instruction stickers on six bins – Ferncreek, Woodsmere, Randolph Street, R.D. Keene and Moss Park boat ramps and Cypress Grove Park’s fishing pier.

Used fishing line is collected and cleaned by Parks and Rec staff and sent to Berkley Recycling in Iowa, where it is recycled into plastic items, such as tackle boxes, toys and aquatic habitat enhancers.