The degradation of water quality within the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve System
and the effects of stormwater discharges on the estuarine system are well documented.
Primary factors affecting water quality in the IRL are the quantity, quality, timing, and
distribution of stormwater runoff from urban and agricultural sources. More specifically,
the system suffers from salinity imbalances, turbid water, high nutrient and sediment
loading, hypoxia, and heavy metal and pesticide accumulation in the sediments. The
consequences of these physical and chemical disturbances include fish kills, chronic fish
abnormalities (fin rot, ulcerations, scoliosis, abnormal lateral lines, scale disorientation,
discolored patches, live rot on body, eye and body deformities, growths, bleeding, and severe
parasite infestation), algal blooms, a shift from nekton to plankton-dominated system, low
transparency, and a lack of SAV and oyster reefs.
In the past, numerous drainage systems were constructed throughout the IRL watershed. Much
of this development predated present-day stormwater treatment requirements. As a consequence,
stormwater, with its associated pollutants and volumes of freshwater, reach the IRLAP System
with little or no pre-treatment. Cumulative impacts of past and present human activities present
a significant challenge to conserving the viability of these coastal resources. Promoting Best
Management Practices (BMPs) for retrofitting older developments and planning new developments,
educating homeowners and making certain accurate resource information is provided to regulatory
personnel are important activities for sustaining the natural resources of the IRLAP System.
In addition to dramatic watershed changes, shoreline and benthic communities have also been
directly impacted. In many areas of the IRLAP System, seawalls, docks, and rip-rap have replaced
natural mangroves, seagrasses and oyster habitats along the shorefront. Natural shorelines help
stabilize the sediments, dissipate wave action, filter stormwater runoff and provide quality
intertidal habitat for numerous birds and aquatic organisms. It is important to promote appropriate
set-backs for buildings and natural "living" shoreline stabilization options to regulatory staff,
local governments and riparian land owners in order to restore these lost habitat functions. In
recent years, the impacts of stormwater discharges and incompatible development practices have
been recognized and many local governments have taken action to address these impacts.
Planned strategies to address water quality issues in the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves include:
- Create a user-friendly guide that identifies
the location of water quality monitoring
stations within the aquatic preserves and how to
access raw data from each of the entities
collecting water quality data.
- Complete reports that assess the status and
trends of water and sediment quality.
- Develop a prioritized list of monitoring and
research needs to address water and sediment
quality is developed.
- Implement shoreline stabilization projects.
- Restore and establish oyster reef structure.
- Support efforts to reconnect artificially
isolated floodplain habitat (mosquito
- Support muck removal projects within the
IRLAP System where appropriate.
- Actively support Comprehensive Everglades
Restoration Plan (CERP) efforts that will
benefit the IRLAP System.
- Identify high priority areas for conversion
to sewer, and encourage efforts to convert.
- Maintain list of available agricultural and
urban BMPs scientifically demonstrated to
improve water quality in the IRLAP System.
Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves
If you want to help preserve the Indian River Lagoon, consider
joining Friends of the Spoil Islands at