When water levels get high in Lake Okeechobee, flows which previously went to the Everglades, are now discharged to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. The resulting excess freshwater and pollution creates unnatural salinity levels and fuels algae blooms which can harm or kill aquatic life. The toxins produced by some of the harmful algae blooms can also pose public health risks.
Inversely, in the dry season, the Caloosahatchee is often cut off from any flows from the Lake, causing the river to stagnate; some portions even flow backward at times. The alternating mismanagement of either too much or too little flow combined with pollution is destroying the Caloosahatchee River and estuary, the basis of the region’s tourism-based economy.
The Caloosahatchee River was connected years ago to Lake Okeechobee through an artificial dredged canal in order to divert water previously flowing south of the Lake to the Everglades. This was done to create the Everglades Agricultural Area, an area of the former Everglades that was drained to be used for large-scale sugar cane production by agribusinesses.
Being constrained to a few small canals instead of the former large flowway south of the lake, when lake levels get too deep, water has to be discharged east to the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee instead of flowing where it formerly had.
Also, nutrient pollution (from sewage, fertilizer, manure, etc.) has reached unsafe levels throughout Florida because Florida has not had measurable enforceable nutrient water quality standards. Agriculture and developments are also not being required to adequately retain and treat their own run-off on-site. This has resulted in too much pollution getting into waterways and flowing downstream.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida advocates for a comprehensive approach to restoring clean appropriate flows to the Caloosahatchee and the Everglades. We advocate for science-based solutions that would benefit the environment and the public health and safety of all of communities in South Florida.
All of the following actions are needed to fix this water crisis:
Reach out to your Florida Senator and Representative. Tell them you support SB10 and that this is an exciting and much-needed opportunity for Florida’s water.
Spread the word about the bill and its merit for the environment.
Write an op-ed to your local paper to express support for SB10.
Participate in Everglades Action Day in Tallahassee on April 4
Read full text of SB10
NPCA fact sheet on SB10 and sending clean water south
EVCO talking points about SB10 & debunking red herrings
See more about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s clean water efforts
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