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

Water-Related News

Herbicide Application on Lake Down (Fisher Canal), 5/17

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 5/17/2024.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage hydrilla and floating plants in the Fisher Canal.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:

  • DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY.
  • DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS. There are no restrictions on swimming or fishing.
  • Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

These restrictions ONLY apply to the FISHER CANAL indicated in red below:

Treatment area

Orlando leaders approve stormwater rate hike

ORLANDO – Orlando homeowners will have to pay more for their stormwater utility fees over the next few years.

Despite hearing objections from several people, the city commission approved the hike Monday in a vote of 5 to 1.

Costly repairs, old pipes and population growth are some reasons Orlando Public Works proposed the hike.

The rate hasn't changed since 2008.

By 2028, the owner of a typical single-family home will pay more than double their current fee.

The fee is capped a2,500 square feet which means a property larger than that will pay the same price.

Aquatic plants are a sign that Lake Apopka is recovering after decades of pollution

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — What was once considered Florida’s most polluted lake is making strides in its road to recovery. Agricultural discharge caused Lake Apopka to lose its submerged aquatic vegetation for more than 50 years, but thanks to efforts from the St. Johns River Water Management District, aquatic plants are growing once again. It’s a sign that water quality is improving and that restoration efforts are working.

Lake Apopka was once a main attraction in Central Florida.

“There were over 20 fish camps around the lake,” Jim Peterson with the St. Johns River Water Management District said. “They had lodging, they rented boats, they sold bait, they had entertainment. It was a place to come visit.”

In the early 20th century, Lake Apopka was considered the most reliable bass-fishing lake in the South — but by the 1940s, everything changed. Food shortage concerns during World War II caused 20,000 acres of the lake’s North Shore to be drained and used for agricultural production.

“That area became completely under cultivation,” Peterson said. “They did a great job of growing vegetables mostly and crops, but it added a lot of pollution to Lake Apopka.”

Drainage from the farms increased the lake’s phosphorus levels and led to a continuous algal bloom. Due to the algae, sunlight couldn’t reach the bottom of the lake, which caused native submerged aquatic vegetation to die off and the bass population to decline. At one point, Lake Apopka was considered Florida’s most polluted lake.

Florida's outdated urban drainage systems cause more flooding, but there' a natural solution

In the 1900s, swamps and low-lying areas were drained to create more space for development and farming.

Florida has a lot of altered drainage networks, like ditches and canals, but at a recent resiliency summit in Clearwater, it became clear that these are increasingly becoming obsolete and can actually make flooding worse.

There are 80,000 linear miles of stream channels in Florida, and almost two-thirds of those are ditches and canals.

These water systems were originally put in to drain parts of the state for development.

But John Kiefer, an environmental engineer with Black & Veatch who moderated a panel discussion on the subject at the Regional Resiliency Summit, said these are not stable.

"They require perennial maintenance, otherwise they erode — sometimes catastrophically, sometimes chronically," Kiefer told the audience in one of the breakout rooms at the Hilton Clearwater Beach.

He said the eroding sediment could plug up openings, compounding the flooding that's already increasing from climate change.

Along with sea level rise, warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate from the land and oceans, creating more frequent and heavier rain events.

Kiefer also said altering the landscape causes problems for wildlife, so some fish don't have access to proper water bodies, for instance.

"So, what is the cure? Well, the cure can follow a gradient from near to natural solutions to highly engineered ones," Kiefer said.

These systems can be re-patterned so they process water and sediment more naturally.

Take Sarasota County's Phillippi Creek Watershed, for example.

Kiefer said 95 of the 100 miles of canals there are eligible for this kind of restoration, but a project like this could cost $2 million per mile.

Orlando hosts community meeting about possible stormwater utility fee increase

ORLANDO — During an open house Wednesday night, the city of Orlando proposed an increase in the stormwater utility fee, which leaders say would go toward more projects like flood prevention.

City of Orlando residents or business owners may have received a letter in the mail stating their stormwater utility fee could rise.

If city council approves the increase, rates will climb over the next four years.

How much the stormwater utility fee will go up depends on the size of your property.

The higher fee will help the city tackle more projects, including flood prevention, pollution, water quality and stormwater improvements.

Lake Anderson to receive nutrient inactivation treatment beginning May 6

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Starting May 6th, 2024 Lake Anderson will receive its second in-lake nutrient inactivation treatment to improve lake water quality.

You will see a county contractor on the lake applying alum and monitoring the lake to ensure a safe and effective treatment.

Swimming, fishing and irrigation is not restricted during this application, however: We do ask you refrain from wave-generating boating activities while the contractor is on the water.

This application round should span 5 weeks and the contractor will be intermittently working during this period.

Apopka residents under mandatory water restrictions as supply falls. Violators face fines.

Supply depleting at potable and reclaim water plants, city says

APOPKA – The city of Apopka is under a “state of water supply conservation” and residents could face fines for violating restrictions.

The city on Friday said it is seeing an “increasingly faster depletion of the water supply being observed at the City of Apopka Potable (water that is safe to drink) and Reclaim Water Plants.”

Apopka residents need to restrict all water use activities outside, including watering lawns and gardens, the city said.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is restricting irrigation to before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. and for no more than 15 minutes per zone.

Residents living at addresses that end in odd numbers can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Addresses ending in even numbers can water on Thursdays and Sundays.

Nonresidential properties can water on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The district is also asking people not to install any new sod until water restrictions are lifted.

Residents who violate the restrictions will get a written warning the first time, but after that face a $50 fine for the second offense, $100 for a third violation and $500 fines after that.

Anyone who has questions about the new water policies can call the Department of Public Services at 407-703-1731.

Orange County issues Health Caution for blue-green algae in Little Econ

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The Orange County EPD has issued a Health Caution for the presence of blue-green algae in the Little Econlockhatchee River. This is in response to water sample(s) collected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on April 24, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around the Little Econlockhatchee River. Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, and what triggers them to begin doing so remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard, and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website, where you can sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions provided by the Department of Health

  • We do not recommend that you swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes/streams experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish to the appropriate temperature.

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.

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fi

Governor announces investments in Wildlife Corridor, red tide mitigation

For the second day in a row, DeSantis focused on environmental investments.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation to boost red tide research and direct funding toward expanding Florida’s Wildlife Corridor.

“With the investments we’re getting, we’re on our way to linking these areas so that we can promote safe and stabilized species movements,” DeSantis said.

The Governor signed the legislation in Naples, a region Senate President Kathleen Passidomo represents. Environmental investments had been chief priorities for Passidomo during the past two Legislative Sessions.

DeSantis at the event stressed the need to preserve Florida’s environment for future generations to enjoy. The announcements Tuesday came a day after DeSantis also promised a $1.5 billion investment in Everglades restoration and other water improvement projects.

In fighting red tide algal blooms, DeSantis signed mitigation legislation (HB 1565) extending a partnership between the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and More Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to study prevention and mitigation technologies.

Health officials issue Blue-Green Algae Bloom Caution for Lake Arnold-North Shore

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April 19, 2024

ORLANDO – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a health caution for the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Arnold – N. Shore. This is in response to a water sample taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on April 16, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Arnold – N. Shore.

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, and what triggers them to begin doing so remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard, and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website, where you can sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • We do not recommend that you swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • 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 to the appropriate temperature.
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location.
For updates, please visit the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Orange County Dept. of Health issues Health Caution for Little Big Econ at Jay Blanchard Park

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April 26, 2024

ORLANDO – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a health caution for the presence of blue-green algae in Little Big Econ – Jay Blanchard Park. This is in response to a water sample taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on April 25, 2024.

The public should exercise caution in and around Little Big Econ – Jay Blanchard Park.

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, and what triggers them to begin doing so remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard, and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website, where you can sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • We do not recommend that you swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • 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 to the appropriate temperature.
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location.

Orange County Green PLACE program celebrates new bird blind at Johns Lake Conservation Area

While the newest amenity at Johns Lake Conservation Area near Winter Garden might look like a simple wooden box, the 20-foot-long structure is actually the latest effort by Orange County and its Green PLACE program to protect the feathered friends who call the area home.

In celebration of Earth Month, the County’s Environmental Protection Division joined Mayor Jerry Demings and Commissioner Nicole Wilson on April 25, 2024, to unveil the county’s first bird blind for bird watching.

Nestled adjacent to the canal that flows from Black Lake and Lake Tilden into Johns Lake, the 10-foot-high wooden bird blind allows visitors to capture photos and observe bird behavior without disturbing them.

“Birds cluster in wetlands for at least part of their life cycle, but they’re under enormous pressure by encroachment by humans and animals,” said Deborah Green, president, Orange Audubon Society. “The bird blind enables people to view and admire birds, but without getting too close and putting more pressure on them.”

First-of-its-kind study shows Florida Wildlife Corridor eases worst impacts of climate change

From rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns to intense weather events such as hurricanes, Florida is experiencing significant climate-related challenges in tandem with skyrocketing insurance rates. As the state's population continues to surge by 1,000 new residents a day, it is projected to lose 3.5 million acres of land to development by 2070, threatening Florida's future ability to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services.

A first-of-its-kind study highlights how Florida can buffer itself against both climate change and population pressures by conserving the remaining 8 million acres of "opportunity areas" within the Florida Wildlife Corridor (FLWC). Currently, about 10 million acres of the expansive FLWC's 18 million acres are already conserved permanently.

This superhighway of interconnected acres of wildlands, working lands and waters is the only designated statewide corridor in the United States, and a world-class adaption plan facing down ground zero of climate change in an already warm location. Spanning from Alabama to the Everglades, the FLWC not only protects endangered species like the Florida panther, but also brings economic and climate benefits to local communities. About 90% of Floridians live within 20 miles of the corridor.

The new report, "The Florida Wildlife Corridor and Climate Change: Managing Florida's Natural and Human Landscapes for Prosperity and Resilience," is a joint project by Florida Atlantic University, Archbold Biological Station, Live Wildly Foundation and numerous collaborators. The report paints a holistic picture of how climate change and population growth will impact Florida's communities and natural resources, and how the FLWC, if it were fully enacted, can continue to moderate those impacts.