And although large-scale water restoration projects and strong, enforceable regulations are important, everyone can take action to improve the quality of local waterways. Here are some ways YOU can protect our water and wildlife habitat!

Dispose of Your Waste Appropriately

Waste often collects in stormwater drains, increasing pollution.  Make sure that you don’t put any waste into stormwater drains, including fertilizers, motor oils, paints, grass, and pet waste.  Wash your car on your lawn.  Dispose of hazardous waste (including motor oil) at your county’s collection facility.  Participate in your county’s yard waste collection program.  Learn how to compost your food waste.   Never dispose of grass clippings or other yard waste down storm drains, into waterways, or onto impervious surfaces.  

Minimize the Impact of Your Yard

Fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are key pollutants in stormwater.  To reduce these impacts, do not apply fertilizer before a rain event, do not allow fertilizer to be dispersed too close to impervious surfaces (like the sidewalk, driveway, or street) or waterbodies (like canals, swales, or storm drains), use products with slow-release nitrogen, and keep your grass clippings on the lawn as a natural fertilizer or use summer-safe products that do not contain nitrogen or phosphorous.  Use of reclaimed water for irrigation would reduce the amount of fertilizers to be used on your lawn.  Be aware of local fertilizer ordinances and make sure your lawn company is following best practices.  Replacing your patio, walkways, and driveway with permeable pavers will also increase the amount of water retention in your yard, and decrease runoff.

Conserve Water

Water levels are stressed during the winter months with the increase in population and lack of rainfall, and overall population in Florida continues to grow – resulting in greater demands on finite water supplies.  According to 1000 Friends of Florida’s Water 2070 Report, “the single most effective strategy to reduce water demand in Florida is to significantly reduce the amount of water used for landscape irrigation.”  By conserving water, you will also be reducing your water bill!  Visit Lee County’s Water Conservation site and review the recommendations in the Water 2070 Report for lists of water-saving techniques for your home and your lawn.

Maintain Your Septic Tank

Septic tank leaks are not only harmful to the environment, but are also expensive to fix (and no fun to mess with!)  Prevent damage to your tank by getting it pumped every 4 to 5 years, avoid flushing wipes (even flushable ones), and spread out your laundry loads over the week. Have your septic tank inspected regularly. 

Participate in Cleanup Days

Many counties have volunteer workdays to remove litter near coastal areas.  Help clean up a local spot for a few hours at an event near you!

Convert your yard into a Florida-friendly Landscape

Having a native lawn will maximize the yard’s perviousness (ability to absorb water) and can eliminate the need for fertilizers or yard chemicals.  The University of Florida has a Florida-Friendly Landscape™ program that can help get you started. Natives for Your Neighborhood is another helpful south Florida resource.

Join a Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program

Monitoring water quality is critical to evaluating the health of an estuary.  The Report Card found that there is often not enough data available to know whether all of our waterbodies are meeting state standards.  There are two notable water monitoring groups that residents can join in the region.  The Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network, comprised of over 100 volunteers, regularly conducts water quality monitoring throughout the six Aquatic Preserves in the Charlotte Harbor Estuary.  After receiving initial classroom training, volunteers collect monthly water samples and input their data.  To learn more, visit the  Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network website. Residents can also join the Florida LakeWatch program consisting of 1,800 trained volunteers who monitor 600+ lakes, rivers and coastal sites in more than 40 counties.  Find a LakeWatch site near you.

Contact Your Government Representatives

Government officials at the local, state and federal levels make decisions impacting whether a residential development or hydrologic restoration project will be built as well as many other decisions that impact the health of our estuaries.  Call or send an e-mail to your representatives, asking them to approve projects that improve the environmental health of your estuary.  Sign up for the Conservancy’s action alerts to be notified when important issues are being considered that need your input! 

Become a member of the Conservancy

The Conservancy works on behalf of 6,000 member families to protect Southwest Florida’s natural resources and wildlife.  The more members we have, the stronger voice we have as an organization when speaking with government agencies and businesses.  Also, your annual contribution will fund our research and advocacy to protect the environment.

Support local, state and federal policies that protect wetlands and other environmentally-sensitive lands

One acre of wetland can store 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater, and wetlands help filter out pollutants.  Other natural landscapes provide critical buffer areas for waterbodies as well. 

Support land acquisition efforts to protect and permanently preserve coastal wetlands

This not only benefits the environment, but is also good for your wallet.  An economic study completed in 2008 estimated that coastal wetlands provided $23.2 billion on an annual basis for storm protection. With 1,350 miles of shoreline, Florida needs these natural buffers. 

Get out there and enjoy nature!

Unplug from your technology, round up family and friends and take a walk through a preserve, a kayak trip in an estuary or a swamp walk through the cypress.  Consider one of the many educational programs, boat rides or other activities offered by the Conservancy.  Being immersed in nature is fun and good for you.

Share your Knowledge! 

People who know about environmental issues are more likely to take steps to reduce their impact.  Distribute copies of this Report Card and other educational materials to your family, friends, and neighbors.  Learn about local, state and federal environmental regulations.  Encourage others to reduce their waste pollution.  Set up an educational activity for your kids or a class to demonstrate the impacts of pollution and habitat loss on the environment and wildlife.

Please show Your Support!