Water-Related News

** Pinellas County Commission issues "Safer at Home" order **

Places of that facilitate public assembly and non-essential businesses ordered to close

  • BCC extends local state of emergency and issues "Safer at Home" order.
  • Residents are ordered to follow CDC guidelines, stay home as much as possible save for essential needs.
  • Non-essential businesses are ordered to close storefront operations and customer foot traffic unless they are able to comply with CDC guidelines.
  • Places of public assembly are ordered to close, including: movie theaters, museums, pool halls, bowling alleys, country clubs and others
  • County public parks will stay open; however, playgrounds within the parks will be closed.

The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to pose a significant health risk to our community. As a result, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday extended its local state of emergency declaration another week and adopted a "Safer At Home" Order for individuals, business owners, and any place of public assembly to slow the spread of the virus. The Order is effective starting Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 12 p.m. and will continue so long as there is a declared local state of emergency in Pinellas.

"It's important for us to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in Pinellas County while balancing the needs of our community and we are exercising every reasonable power to slow the spread," said Commission Chair Pat Gerard. "These actions, with the cooperation of our Pinellas residents and businesses, will help us prevent worse scenarios in the future."

Pinellas public beaches to be closed Saturday

Pinellas: Public beaches and beach parking areas closed, effective March 20th at 11:59 p.m.

Citing public health and safety concerns over COVID-19 (coronavirus), the Pinellas County Commission on Thursday unanimously extended its state of local emergency another 7 days. The Board also approved a resolution closing Pinellas County public beaches and public beach parking areas effective 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 20, 2020, until April 6, 2020. Under the resolution, private owners along the beach are also asked to conform to the CDC guidelines of social distancing by maintaining 6 ft. of separation from others and limiting group gatherings to no more than 10 people.

El NiƱo may skip hurricane season: what it means for Florida

The 2019 hurricane season was the fourth consecutive season with above normal storm activity. With early signs pointing to no El Niño this year, we may see the trend continue.

Early climate signals are raising red flags that El Niño will be a no-show this hurricane season, a bad sign for storm-weary states that have suffered four consecutive years of above normal activity.

Hurricanes are a low priority with coronavirus turning the world upside down, but June 1 will come regardless of what the virus is doing.

Meteorologists acknowledge March is a tricky time for predictions with Earth in the throes of seasonal metamorphosis, but the clues almost all point to a neutral or La Niña pattern come summer.

The two patterns, both recurring phases of the El Niño -Southern Oscillation cycle, are more accommodating to Atlantic tropical cyclones than the cutting western gales that shred hurricanes during an El Niño event.

February forecast models were leaning against an El Niño for the 2020 hurricane season. That was reinforced Mar. 5 with updates in the Euro (ECMWF) and the American Global Forecast System (GFS) showing a cooling over the next several months in the equatorial Pacific more consistent with a neutral or La Niña pattern.

Don’t flush disinfectant wipes!

Wipes can cause clogs in wastewater pipes and pumps

Disposable disinfectant wipes are being bought and used to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department supports the use of disposable disinfectant wipes, but reminds residents not to flush wipes.

Wipes need to be thrown out in the garbage after they are used. The package might say they are "flushable," but that is not accurate.

If large number of wipes gets into the wastewater pipes, it can create problems for everybody.

The wipes can clog pipes, and it can cause the pumping stations to fail. If the pipes or pumping stations are blocked, the wastewater can overflow, causing disruption at homes, businesses, and potentially impacting the environment.

It can also be a problem at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. While the Wastewater Treatment Plant has equipment to remove the wipes, an excessive number of wipes in the system can damage the equipment, making it difficult to get routine work done.

Along with wipes, many people will use paper towels to clean and disinfect countertops, tables, and desks at homes and offices. Like wipes, paper towels can't be flushed because they can clog pipes and pumps. They need to be discarded in the trash.

Other items not to flush:

  • Paper towels
  • Dental floss
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cotton swabs
  • Hair
  • Bandages
  • Medications
  • Cat litter

The rule of thumb: If isn't toilet paper, it shouldn't be flushed.

For more information, visit Don't Flush It.

Good advice no matter where you live!

Seasonal reclaimed water restrictions in effect April 1st

Pinellas County seasonal reclaimed water restrictions go into effect on Wednesday, April 1, and run through Tuesday, June 30.

Due to supply fluctuation in both the north and south county reclaimed water systems, the restrictions schedule for reclaimed water users will be different for north and south county customers during this period. Enforcement of watering restrictions is currently being intensified to encourage responsible use of reclaimed water.

Effective Wednesday, April 1, North County reclaimed water customers may only irrigate two days per week based on property address.

Because irrigation is entirely prohibited on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, the reclaimed water system will be shut down on these days, as needed. The system will also be shut down from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all days of operation for supply recovery. Customers should monitor the reclaimed water restrictions website for up-to-date information about shutdowns and schedule changes at www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/reclaim-irrigation.htm. 
 
Customer cooperation in following the two-days-per-week watering schedule is critical as excessive demand may require returning to watering one day per week.
 
For more information and to see watering schedules for north and south county customers, visit the link below.

Legislature approves bill creating new Aquatic Preserve

TALLAHASSEE – On Wednesday, the Florida Legislature approved a bill that would provide protections to the largest seagrass bed in the Gulf of Mexico.

House Bill 1061 by Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo of Lecanto passed overwhelmingly to create the first aquatic preserve in 32 years, including the coastlines of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

The news comes with excitement for Capt. William Toney, a fourth-generation fishing guide in Citrus County.

"This aquatic preserve will protect us and hopefully, sustain our way of living and keep our rivers safe clean and everything, from if there is any issues with pollution," he states. "It's being proactive, is what it is."

Seagrass helps stabilize the sea floor, filters pollution and serves as habitat for fish species.

Some local governments did express concern about added bureaucracy for the state protections, but the measure received unanimous support in the Senate and is now on the governor's desk.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, commercially fished seagrass-dependent species and eco-tourism in the region generate around $600 million a year for the local economy, and support more than 10,000 jobs.

Heading to an event? Verify its status first!

COVID-19 is prompting event cancellations. Know before you go.

Our Water Atlas event calendar is provided as a convenience to Atlas users and contains notices of volunteer opportunities, public meetings, and other water-related happenings hosted by our Water Atlas sponsors and their partner organizations. To safeguard the community, some organizations have been cancelling events, especially those that are anticipated to draw large crowds.

We'll update the Water Atlas calendar as we learn of cancellations and postponements, but be sure to check with the event sponsor to find out whether an event is still going on as planned before you head out the door!

Bill aimed at battling algae blooms heads to governor

Supporters call it the Clean Waterways Act, but many environmentalists doubt it will provide the clean-up needed.

TALLAHASSEE — Legislation aimed at easing the state’s wide-ranging water problems by tightening oversight of runoff from farms, urban development and Florida’s 2.7 million septic tanks was approved Wednesday by the House.

The House’s 118-0 vote follows similar 39-0 approval last week in the Senate. The measure now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who pushed for the changes and is expected to sign it into law.

“This is the most important thing we’ve done for water in this state in 10 years,” said Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, a sponsor of the legislation (SB 712), which supporters call the Clean Waterways Act.

The legislation changes how the state regulates everything from septic tanks to city wastewater systems and city and county storm-water management. But many environmental organizations say the regulatory changes lack muscle.

The Sierra Club, Florida Springs Council and Florida Waterkeepers are among those pointing to problems with the legislation, saying it will not achieve water quality goals for the many state waterways already damaged.

The organizations called it the, “policy equivalent of slapping a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. It may not hurt, but it won’t really help.”

State officials, though, have defended the measure with superlatives.

Public construction in Florida could require sea level study

TALLAHASSEE — Public construction projects in Florida’s coastal areas could soon require a study on how sea level could affect them, under a bill sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday.

The bill unanimously passed by the House would require a sea level study before public construction projects using state money can begin in coastal zones.

“Seventy-five percent of our constituents live in coastal counties and it is not lost on any of us that there’s a very delicate relationship between our communities and the environment,” said Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis, who sponsored the legislation. “This is a first step, but I think this is a first step that will allow our state to lead the nation on environmental policy.”

Florida is one of, if not the most, vulnerable states to sea level rise. The state has about 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) of coastline and much of the state has a low elevation.

New research shows mangrove conservation can pay for itself in flood protection

The natural coastal defenses provided by mangrove forests reduce annual flooding significantly in critical hotspots around the world. Without mangroves, flood damages would increase by more than $65 billion annually, and 15 million more people would be flooded, according to a new study published March 10 in Scientific Reports.

"Mangroves provide incredibly effective natural defenses, reducing flood risk and damages," said Pelayo Menéndez, a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the paper.

Climate change is increasing the risk of coastal flooding through its effects on sea level rise and the intensity of hurricanes. According to the study's authors, conservation and restoration of natural defenses such as mangroves offers cost-effective ways to mitigate and adapt to these changes.

The researchers provided high-resolution estimates of the economic value of mangrove forests for flood risk reduction across more than 700,000 kilometers of coastlines worldwide. They combined engineering and economic models to provide the best analyses of coastal flood risk and mangrove benefits. Their results show when, where, and how mangroves reduce flooding, and they identified innovative ways to fund mangrove protection using economic incentives, insurance, and climate risk financing.

TBEP, UF scientists study sea level rise with drone radar

TIERRA VERDE — Across the road from a snack shack in Fort De Soto Park, Gary Raulerson searches until he finds a gap in the cabbage palms. He ducks inside, branches creaking on a bright February morning. He plods a few steps past an orange survey flag.

Sunlight slashes through dead Brazilian pepper trees, brought here more than a century ago for decoration, now invasive. Raulerson tries to avoid poison ivy. Sweat pricks his back.

In the parking lot, University of Florida researchers prepare a spider-like drone, which will fly an $80,000 laser radar device to collect data on the vegetation.

Scientists are studying nine places like this around Tampa Bay, where water meets land and where they believe the region’s present will meet its uncertain future as seas rise.

An ecologist for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Raulerson, 52, wears transition lenses under long gray hair and cinches a bucket hat at his neck. He hopes this study, still in its infancy, will outlast him by decades. Climate change, he believes, is legacy work.

“We think about the impacts it’s going to have on our houses, on our infrastructure,” he said — on places like the sugar-sand beach across the street, rated among America’s best. Just a Frisbee toss away, the tangled wedge of the barrier island where Raulerson stands lacks such glamour, but he worries about it just the same.

He wonders what will become of the mangroves and marsh grasses that share the shore, squeezed somewhere between the pavement and rising tide.