The super blooms and brown tides in the Indian River Lagoon system between 2011 and 2016 and their attendant sea grass destruction, fish kills, and wildlife deaths have raised public awareness regarding water quality issues.  The fact is that many people in state and local government as well as in academia have been worried about water column issues in the IRL and many of Florida’s other estuary systems for many years.  The tragedy in the Indian River Lagoon merely brought nutrient loading to the fore as story after story appeared in our newspapers and on TV news.

Nutrient loads that enhance the growth of algae and phytoplankton come from a number of sources but the one source that we as citizens can quickly and directly have positive impact on is residential lawn and garden management.  And it does not matter where you live in Florida.   How you manage your yard effects a broad range of environments around you.   If you live inland how you fertilize, mow, trim, and water your yard effects run off and ground water which eventually affects lakes, then springs, then rivers, then estuaries and coastal water systems.  If you live along one of Florida’s coastal estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon or Tampa Bay your impact is far greater and more immediate because of your proximity to the water body itself.

What can you do to immediately help address Florida’s ever growing battle with water quality?  First, make yourself aware of Florida’s Best Management Practices.  BMP’s have a well-documented history going back into the early 2000’s when industry, state government, and Florida’s university system came together to address Florida’s growing water and water quality issues and develop our first Best Management Practices guidelines which were published in 2002.  By 2009 the Florida legislature made training mandatory for commercial applicators of fertilizer and insecticides.  Today informative articles on Best Management Practices are everywhere if we would only take heed.

So, if you want to make a difference we would suggest that you look for BMP’s for your locale or region.  South Florida Water Management District has a web page highlighting fertilizer use and other regional BMP’s as do other water management districts.  Check this out.  Residents Best Management Practices

Many cities and counties, especially those along waterways, have specific fertilizer ordinances and post local BMP’s.  Find out what’s appropriate for your area.  Here’s the link to entities along the IRL that already have ordinances in place.

If you think about it, fertilizer use, landscaping techniques, and watering are essentially cultural issues.  So often we do things because “that’s the way it’s always been done”.    Florida friendly gardening techniques could easily be likened to recycling.  We now accept recycling as a cost effect activity in our daily lives that is practiced virtually everywhere.  While the use of BMP’s is currently not mandatory, the agricultural community has broadly adopted BMP’s because they are cost effective and increase harvest.  The same is true for residential lawn and landscape application.  Do a little research, try it and you’ll see.  Save money and enhance your curb appeal.

As Pogo once so eloquently put it, “We have found the enemy and it is us!”  But, WE Can do something about it.  Let’s start now.

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