Water-Related News

Do you know the main hazards caused by hurricanes and tropical weather?

As a potential hurricane looms for Southwest Florida and other places in Florida, the National Weather Service has determined that there are six main hazards caused by tropical weather systems.

According to the NWS: While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating.

The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are:

  1. Storm surge
  2. Flooding
  3. Winds
  4. Tornadoes
  5. Waves

Researchers will study how to best support Florida mangrove and coral reef ecosystems

At a time when developers are cutting down mangroves and building in such a way that's harming coral reefs, scientists will work with community members on solutions and policy changes.

A team of researchers led by the University of South Florida is getting $20 million from the National Science Foundation to develop solutions to protect and replenish coral reef and mangrove ecosystems.

Coral reefs and mangroves safeguard our coasts by reducing flooding, erosion and wave intensity during storms. They also provide habitat for marine life.

Mangroves serve as fish nurseries, and coral reefs help fish hideout, as well. So, in terms of the benefit to biodiversity, these are two really important ecosystems.

But mangroves are removed for development and coral reefs are threatened by pollution and rising temperatures.

Now, USF is collaborating with University of Miami, Boston University, Stanford University, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Virgin Islands and East Carolina University to combine natural features with artificial infrastructure to help these ecosystems thrive.

The scientists will look into hybrid models for coral reef and mangrove restoration, such as using concrete or cement to assist in mangrove planting so that they are protected and able to grow.

“If they're degraded systems or systems that have been destroyed in the past, are there ways in which one can restore those areas?” asked lead scientist Maya Trotz, a professor at USF’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“What would it cost? Who needs to be at the table to make sure that that intervention is protected and at work? How would you design those interventions so that local communities really have a say in what the design look like?”

She said over the next five years, her team will focus on Biscayne Bay in Miami because they want input from diverse community members.

"The idea of working closer with communities and collecting new information: Are there additional things that we should be considering when we start to talk about equity?" Trotz said.

They’ll also spend time analyzing the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Complex in Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Workshops and meetings are planned in each location every year for residents to share their experiences and to add their input into conversations identifying solutions.

Although the research will be based out of South Florida and the Caribbean Sea, Trotz said the findings will translate to Florida's Gulf Coast and beyond.

“In Tampa Bay, we have mangroves, we have concerns about sea level rise, we have concerns about flooding and the risks to our properties,” Trotz said. “The lessons learned should be able to apply to any reef-lined or … mangrove-lined coastal system.”

Trotz so far has a team of about 20 but she’s currently hiring to double that number. The project is expected be completed by the end of August 2027.

“I hope that from this study, we have a better way to build research and action within communities to address issues related to protecting their coasts, that integrate nature-based solutions in a more holistic way than is probably done right now,” Trotz said.

“At a time when we're also seeing a lot of developments and a lot of development that is pretty much cutting these mangroves down, and that are building in such a way that they're harming coral reefs … it's sort of like, how do you amplify that importance to developers, and the persons who are part of that development before it's too late when we still do have some of these ecosystems in existence?”

Pinellas County water system maintenance to start Sept. 25

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The method of water treatment for Pinellas County and its wholesale customers will be temporarily modified between Sunday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 15. The second of two short-term changes from chloramine to chlorine disinfection in 2022 is a routine maintenance measure designed to optimize water quality.

Pinellas County Utilities water customers will benefit from this program, as well as customers in the cities of Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Safety Harbor.

The disinfection program is designed to maintain distribution system water quality and minimize the potential for any future problems. There have been no indications of significant bacteriological contamination problems in the system. The water will continue to meet all federal and state standards for safe drinking water.

Kidney dialysis patients should not be impacted but should contact their dialysis care provider for more information about chlorine disinfection and how it affects their treatment. Fish owners should not be affected if they already have a system in place to remove chloramines but should contact local pet suppliers with any questions.

Customers may notice a slight difference in the taste and/or odor of the water during this temporary change in treatment.

Chlorine was used as the primary disinfectant in the water for more than 50 years prior to 2002. Pinellas County switched to chloramine in 2002 to ensure compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards. Many communities using chloramine convert back to chlorine for short periods of time to maintain system water quality.

For more information, please visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities or contact Pinellas County Utilities Business & Customer Services at (727) 464-4000.

The chlorine maintenance program underscores the county’s strategic goal of protecting and improving the quality of our water.

Business owners happy to hear about plans to dredge John’s Pass

MADIERA BEACH – Pinellas County's largest tourist destination, you'll find boat tours, shops, and sand. Captain Dylan Hubbard is Majority Owner and Vice President of Hubbard's Marine. Only one of those is an issue for him.

"Everybody sees the sand, and then what do they do? They come back, and they think it's a beach, and people get out here and treat it like a beach."

Hubbard said it's anything but a beach. One step too far, and you could end up 30 feet below water. That's in addition to strong rip currents.

"Even adults we've seen get swept off this beach, and we countless times have deployed a boat and gone and assisted people. We had those young gentlemen get swept offshore here and one passed away."

Captain Hubbard said his family has fought to dredge John's Pass since 1997.

They finally saw a victory Wednesday night.

At the Madeira Beach City Council meeting, Representative Linda Chaney presented council members with a $1,556,000 check from the state.

Florida scientists will study how homeowners affect the water quality of stormwater ponds

When residents purchase "waterfront properties," many don't realize the function of their nearby stormwater ponds and actually cause them harm by removing plants and mowing the grass too close to the edge.

Florida researchers are tasked with identifying the benefits of stormwater ponds, and how homeowners are interacting with them.

A team of scientists with the University of Florida have been granted $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to study stormwater ponds and the people living around them for the next four years or so across the state. They’ll document environmental, social and economic benefits, collectively called ecosystem services.

“We want to have an ecosystem in there that can function and … reduce that nitrogen and phosphorus from heading out into these natural bodies of water,” Michelle Atkinson, an extension agent in Manatee County for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said. “Are aesthetic preferences impacting those environmental functions? That's what we don't know for sure. We have suspicions. We have our hypothesis, but we want to prove it.”

According to the UF press release, the researchers will conduct field work, focus groups, surveys and data collection both at the state level and in two communities in Manatee and St. Lucie counties that have a large number of stormwater ponds and where algae blooms have been a recent problem. The results could apply to other parts of the country.

Atkinson said she wants people to view these ponds as amenities and put some value to them.

“That’s what we're going to try to do is quantify some of those ecosystem services that our ponds do. By adding plants or managing a different way, can we put a value on those services, something that homeowners will feel important enough to want to protect? And say, ‘yes, let's do this in our community, because it's the right thing to do.’”

She said she hopes management changes come as a result of this study — whether it's voluntary from homeowners, or enforced by government.

Report: Sea level rise will affect the property lines of Florida’s coastal counties

Rising seas will shift tidal boundaries, leading to the loss of taxable properties, according to a new study. This is expected to impact the tax base of hundreds of U.S. coastal counties, with Florida being the state most affected.

A new analysis released Thursday highlights how sea level rise will change private property boundaries along coastal areas.

Using the latest climate models and current emissions data, researchers with Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science, have determined that private property owners across the U.S. will lose an area the size of New Jersey by the year 2050.

“By mid-century, more than 648,000 individual tax parcels, totaling as many as 4.4 million acres, are projected to be at least partly below the relevant tidal boundary level,” according to the report. “Of those, more than 48,000 properties may be entirely below the relevant boundary level. Florida, Louisiana, and Texas have the largest number of affected parcels.”

Don Bain, an engineer and senior advisor for Climate Central, said Florida has the most properties that will be impacted — more than 140,000 by 2050.

His team generated more than 250 individual county reports to identify any potential movements of public-private property boundaries. He said the losses will result in less property tax revenue.

Click here to find analysis results in your county

Study shows fertilizer ordinances improve water quality (but timing matters)

GAINESVILLE – A new University of Florida study has found that local residential fertilizer ordinances help improve water quality in nearby lakes, but the timing of fertilizer restrictions influences how effective they are.

Using 30 years of water quality data gathered by the UF/IFAS LAKEWATCH program from 1987 to 2018, scientists found that lakes in areas with winter fertilizer bans had the most improvement over time in levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, the main nutrients found in fertilizers.

These lakes also showed larger increases in water clarity and decreases in chlorophyll since the implementation of fertilizer bans. These measurements can also indicate lower nutrient levels, as excess nutrients can feed algae blooms that lead to turbid waters with higher levels of chlorophyll.

“To date, this is the most comprehensive study of fertilizer ordinances’ impact on water quality, not just in Florida but also nationally, and it would not have been possible without the efforts of our LAKEWATCH community scientists,” said Sam Smidt, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of soil, water and ecosystem sciences and the senior author of the study.

TBRPC awards $90,000 in Stormwater Outreach and Education Grants

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Congratulations to the 2023 Stormwater Outreach and Education Funding Recipients!

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) have selected the recipients of the FY2023 Stormwater Outreach and Education funding. This funding from FDOT aims to further public involvement, education, and outreach efforts to improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the Tampa Bay Region. Projects develop and implement creative public outreach programs and a variety of educational materials, such as door hangers, stormdrain murals, and hands-on activities for children.

This year, funds were distributed across 14 projects, totaling $90,000. Awardees included City of Dunedin, City of Madeira Beach, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, MOSI, Pasco County, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, and others. Many projects were tailored to this year’s target audiences: 1) frontline communities; 2) construction and development industry; 3) lawn care and landscaping companies; and 4) tourism and hospitality. Notable projects include hospitality educational programs through both Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, expansion of the City of Largo’s rain barrel program, development of an augmented reality filter for social media by the City of Clearwater, and the creation and distribution of educational materials for Tampa Bay businesses by Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.

See the full list of FY2023 funding recipients.

Visit the Stormwater Outreach & Education Funding page to learn more.

Human link to Red Tide highlights need for better water monitoring

Scientists have long tried to understand the connection between nitrogen pollution and the infamous toxic algal blooms.

When the ominous rust-colored cloud of Red Tide begins to saturate coastal waters in Southwest Florida, it means beach closures. Asthma attacks. Itchy skin and watery eyes. Dead fish and a wretched smell that can spoil the salty breeze.

Now, scientists know it means pollution made the scourge worse.

New research from University of Florida scientists is “providing clarity in what was previously a muddied landscape,” said environmental engineer Christine Angelini, a co-author of the study.

While Red Tides occur naturally, scientists have long debated the degree to which they are worsened by high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen from human sources agricultural and urban. Scientists previously had found a correlation between so-called nutrient loads and Red Tide. But the new research offers some of the strongest evidence yet that humans directly influence the severity of the toxic blooms.

Oyster shells used to create more than two miles of reefs in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Watch project not only replenishes the bay's oyster reefs but restores the ecosystem and prevents beach erosion.

PINELLAS COUNTY – The shucked oyster shells left over from tasty dishes at Tampa Bay seafood restaurants are helping to restore the shoreline ecosystem and protect shorelines from coastal erosion throughout Tampa Bay, Florida's largest open-water estuary.

For the past 30 years, the nonprofit organization Tampa Bay Watch has used oyster shells to create more than 2 miles of oyster shell reefs at 30 sites along the shores of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.

Prior to the 1940s, the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) was abundant in Tampa Bay with estimates as high as 2,000 acres of oyster reefs throughout the estuary. Over-harvesting, disease and environmental impacts, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have resulted in an 85 percent loss of oyster reefs along shorelines, according to Tampa Bay Watch.

An estimated 171 acres of oyster habitat is all that remains of the 2,000 acres along the shorelines in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

To help restore Tampa Bay's lost oyster habitat, Tampa Bay Watch developed the Community Oyster Reef Enhancement (CORE) program in the early 2000s. Through CORE, Tampa Bay Watch has used more than 2,500 tons of oyster shells to restore reefs.