Water-Related News

Oldsmar officials shower praise on new rain garden

Several Oldsmar officials, including Mayor Eric Seidel, Council members Linda Norris and Dan Saracki, and Assistant City Manager Felicia Donnelly, attended a dedication ceremony for the city’s new rain garden on July 16.

Created in partnership with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program using a mini-grant that funded the planting of the garden, the natural feature, located at the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, is designed to hold and collect excess water during rain storms in order to filter it before it enters water systems as well as reduce pollutants and attract pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and ladybugs, that are beneficial to the environment, according to experts.

“As a city, we are dedicated to ensuring we provide environmental stewardship,” Seidel said to the small group that gathered for the event. “This rain garden helps us move towards our goal of becoming a more sustainable community by protecting our waterways and enhancing our quality of place. This garden also helps beautify the city, making it a pleasant place to visit and live.”

How to keep your dog safe from deadly blue-green algae

It was a sad weekend for a few dog owners as they thought they were just bringing their dog for a fun day at the lake. Within a few hours, four dogs in two different southern states died due to a common toxin in Florida known as blue-green algae.

In Georgia, a border collie named Arya died in less than an hour after being brought to a lake. While the pup loved playing in the water, her owners didn't realize it would be her last time as she started vomiting and was brain dead by the time they reached the emergency room.

The vet said it was "most likely" caused from a lake toxin like blue-green algae.

In North Carolina, a pet parent is also warning others after her three dogs died within three hours of exposure to a lake. The dogs began seizing when she started giving them a bath and she rushed them to an emergency vet.

The vet later told it was cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, which caused it. 

District to hold public workshop on ranking water bodies

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is seeking public input about the order in which minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams and aquifers in the District will be determined. Legislation requires the District to review and, if necessary, revise this schedule each year.

A public workshop will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the District’s Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301. The workshop will provide an important opportunity for local governments, residents and the public to be part of the scheduling of minimum flows and levels for priority water bodies.

A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources or environment. The District’s Governing Board sets these limits as part of achieving the balance between meeting water needs and sustaining Florida’s natural systems.

Here come the robots: St. Petersburg inks deal for pipe-inspecting robots

It’s official: Robots will soon be crawling under city streets.

The City Council unanimously green-lighted a $600,000 contract Thursday with RedZone Robotics to start inspecting pipes using the company’s “Solo” robots to help remedy its sewer issues.

The autonomous crawling machines will enable the city to detect leaks three to four times faster than current methods, senior water resources manager Lisa Rhea has told the Tampa Bay Times. That allows the city to make repairs faster and prioritize areas that need work, said RedZone Robotics sales operations manager John DePasquale.

The city’s aging system released up to one billion gallons during the 2015-2016 sewage discharges. Leaky pipes contributed to that. Even on dry days, as much as two-thirds of the sewage flow came from groundwater entering the pipes, a consultant said. When rain fell, the volume proved too much for the pipes and the overflow contributed significantly to sewage spills during storms.

Almost half of Florida water bodies have algal blooms, and climate change is worsening the problem

Florida — home of armed iguana hunters, exploding toilets, and the nation's grandparents — just so happens to be the perfect petri dish for algal blooms. Because blue-green algae absorb energy from the sun and quickly grow in warm freshwater, the Sunshine State offers optimal conditions for the microorganisms called cyanobacteria to thrive.

Nearly all of Lake Okeechobee was covered in cyanobacteria in 2018, and the bacteria has returned this summer. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tested 108 bodies of water statewide in the past month, and 44 percent had algal blooms. Eight sites were tested in Broward County in the past two weeks. Algal blooms were found in all but one.

"We have a problem," says Soren Rundquist, the director of spatial analysis for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. "Florida's warmer climate is naturally conducive to algal blooms."

Rising seas could speed up loss of Florida mangroves, study finds

Four thousand years ago, rising seas decimated huge swaths of mangroves in Florida Bay.

Today, seas rising at a far greater rate, combined with increasing storms and drought, could lead to another catastrophic loss of mangroves that help keep the state from sliding into the sea, according to a new study published by the U.S. Geological Survey in the journal Nature Communications.

"This was surprising because mangroves are thought to be relatively resilient to sea level rise," said Miriam Jone, a USGS geologist and lead author for the study.

While previous studies revealed mangroves have disappeared amid rising seas in the past, this study is the first to show just how quickly that happened. 

USF's poop-powered generator could have worldwide impact

Flowers are blooming in an unconventional spot. It's a vertical hydroponic wall attached to a small generator.

"Which is basically making use of the nutrients and water recovered from the waste water that our system is treating," explained University of South Florida researcher Jorge Calabria.

The mini sewage system is called the NEWgenerator. It was developed by USF engineering professor Dr. Daniel Yeh and his research team.

“NEW" stands for nutrients, energy and water, which the generator recovers from human waste.

"This system works well,” said Yeh. “It allows us to get rid of our waste and actually recover clean waterfrom that.”

It also harnesses energy.

"Think of this as a renewable natural gas that's sitting in our waste and we're, for the most part, not mining that. So we can mine that for heating water, cooking, generating electricity, a number of uses," explained Yeh. 

DEP hosts 2019 resilient Florida: planning, policy and practice workshop

DEP, in conjunction with the University of South Florida, Florida Sea Grant and the Florida Climate Institute, hosted the inaugural 2019 Resilient Florida: Planning, Policy and Practice Workshop in Tampa this week. The two-day workshop, held Aug. 8-9, 2019, brought together nearly 200 attendees, including floodplain managers, community planners, climate change adaptation professionals, natural resource managers, park managers, academic representatives and other stakeholders to discuss tactics and data that will help Florida’s coastlines prepare for the effects of sea level rise and coastal flooding.

“We are making pivotal strides in resilience efforts, and it is an exciting time to be tackling resilience in Florida under Governor DeSantis’ leadership,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I was thrilled to see so many resiliency experts from around the state and across the nation gathered together to learn from one another and build relationships that will create the essential collaboration to successfully address the state’s most challenging resiliency issues.”

Among some of the topics discussed by experts were infrastructure, living shorelines, land acquisitions related to climate change and coastal flooding. Officials from local governments and Florida universities shared how their communities have been involved in resiliency projects, discussing various success stories. Additionally, Florida State Parks staff talked about ways they’re working in parks to plan infrastructure projects and other coastal initiatives.

Researchers deploy new tech to explore depths of Gulf of Mexico

FIU marine scientist Kevin Boswell and a multi-institution research team will deploy experimental technology next week to explore the deep scattering layers of the ocean.

They are looking for information about animals in the Gulf of Mexico that make up the scattering layers — those that undergo daily vertical migrations of 100 to 1,000 meters. These animals represent the largest organized animal migration on the planet, yet little is known about them. What scientists do know is these animals are major players in the global carbon cycle, transporting carbon to deeper waters as they migrate. Some of them are part of a global discussion about whether they could have economic potential from a fisheries standpoint.

The research team will deploy an autonomous glider modified with sonar technology to collect up-close and personal data on the migrating animals in the water column. The slow-moving glider can stealthily travel through the water measuring where organisms are and how they are moving. An exciting addition to the glider is an ‘acoustic brain’ developed by the University of Washington team that processes acoustic data and sends data products home through a satellite connection. Having near-real-time acoustic data facilitates changes to the glider path when interesting acoustic features are observed. The team will simultaneously deploy a prototype camera system developed by the National Geographic Society called the Driftcam. Also an autonomous device, the Driftcam is designed to collect high-resolution images of species composition, distribution and even behavior that is not possible to capture with current technologies and methods. It too, is a minimally invasive device.

A new old way to combat toxic algae: float it up, then skim it off

In Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers is working to combat a growing environmental menace: blue-green algae. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms and subdivisions combines with warm summer weather to create massive blooms of algae in rivers and lakes that can be toxic.

In central Florida, Lake Okeechobee has been hit hard in recent years. In Moore Haven, on the western shore of the lake, Dan Levy was recently working on a solution. He was standing on a platform peering into a large water-filled tank. Inside, floating on top of the water was a thick mat of blue-green algae. "This is our treatment system," said Levy. "This is where we actually float the algae up and skim it across."

Levy is with AECOM, an engineering and infrastructure company that's working with the Army Corps of Engineers on the nagging and sometimes devastating problem. Algal blooms aren't just a nuisance. The algae, actually cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that threaten drinking water supplies, local economies and human health.