Polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee and runoff from the Caloosahatchee watershed continues to threaten the Caloosahatchee and our communities. Dark, dirty water and algae blooms regularly plague our estuaries and beaches and threaten our greatest economic engine – tourism. Many of you may be experiencing the ripple effects first hand.

  • Seagrass is lost: Seagrass is a main source of food for juvenile fish and manatees. Seagrass dies when the water’s salinity swings outside of natural ranges. The salinity changes when the river is subjected to harmfully high or insufficient water flows.
  • Sport fishing industry suffers: Juvenile fish die as a result of poor water quality, less habitat and lower oxygen levels in the water caused by pollution and nutrient-fueled algae outbreaks. Fewer juvenile fish means fewer game fish that attract recreational fishers to Florida waters.
  • Mass oyster die offs: Declining water conditions become lethal for oyster beds, the origin of an important economic resource to fuel our seafood industry, the habitat of many marine species, and an important contributor to healthy waterways.
  • Tourism and real estate industry suffers: Large amounts of pollution that result in visible, harmful blooms of toxic blue-green algae result in the closure of local beaches and make our waterways unsafe for swimming and fishing.

What's wrong?

When water levels get too high in Lake Okeechobee, water which historically flowed to the Everglades is discharged to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. The excess freshwater and pollution creates damaging salinity levels and carries nutrients that fuel algae blooms which can harm or kill aquatic life. The toxins produced by some of the harmful algae blooms can also pose serious risks to public health.

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 Conservancy of Southwest Florida advocates for a comprehensive approach to restore clean water to the Caloosahatchee and the Everglades. We advocate for science-based solutions that would benefit the environment, public health, and the safety of all of communities in South Florida.

The following actions are needed to fix this water crisis:

  • Expedite funding and construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a critical piece of the restoration puzzle to help reduce the harmful discharges and send clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay
  • Allocate sufficient annual funds for the accelerated completion of the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir to improve flows to the Caloosahatchee during dry periods, and implementation of the water quality treatment feature for the Reservoir
  • Revise the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to ensure flows to the Caloosahatchee for supporting safe water quality, avoiding discharges when harmful algal blooms are present, and protecting endangered species
  • Store and treat more water within the Caloosahatchee watershed
  • Protect remaining natural wetlands and flow ways in order to maintain existing natural storage and treatment capacity
  • Control pollution at its source by updating stormwater standards, developing and implementing water quality pollution limits and restoration plans (Total Maximum Daily Loads and Basin Management Action Plans), and implementing the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force to address nutrient pollution sources

What You Can Do

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