Water Quality

Focusing on Water Quality

No other government in the world has invested as much time or money in improving the quality of one single waterbody or natural system, spending an unprecedented $1.8 billion for water quality improvements alone.

  • Since 1994, Florida has built 52,000 acres of stormwater treatment areas to naturally filter phosphorus from the water. During the last decade, these man-made wetlands, along with improved farming practices, prevented more than 3,500 tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades. Currently another 11,500 acres of stormwater treatment areas are being constructed.

  • In 2003, Florida established a stringent, science-based water quality criterion of 10 ppb for phosphorus to protect the sensitive balance of the ecosystem. After strengthening the measurement methodology used in the Loxahatchee to be more protective than the Consent Decree requires, the rule was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Upheld by state court, no other water quality standard in Florida’s history has ever been so thoroughly researched.

  • Authorized by Section 528 of the 1996 Water Resources Development Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is charged with developing specific water quality related projects that are essential to the restoration of the Florida Everglades. These projects are called Critical Projects. The State of Florida is charged with securing the land for all of these projects.

The 1991 federal Settlement Agreement was written as a road map for reversing the decline of the ecosystem in Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge from phosphorus loading.

In 2005, the Technical Oversight Committee, a panel of state and federal scientists, established by the Settlement Agreement to provide technical advice on the cleanup, acknowledged that Florida has consistently achieved the interim and long-term water quality goals required by the 1991 Settlement Agreement ahead of the December 31, 2006 effective date for the long-term levels.

  • For more than a decade (since February 1999), phosphorus levels have continued a significant downward trend within the interior marsh of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, based on 14 monitoring sites.
    o Since September 2004, Everglades water quality has generally met state criteria, with a few excursions limited to specific EPA areas. In Water Year 2009, the annual geometric mean inflow total phosphorous concentration in Everglades Nartional Park decreased from 11.2 to 9.3 parts per billion (ppb).

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Lake Okeechobee Water Quality

Underscoring the state’s commitment to Greater Everglades Ecosystem restoration, the Florida Legislature in 2007 expanded the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act to include protection and restoration of the Lake Okeechobee watershed and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.

  • Implementation of this program will improve the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water to the natural system and re-establish salinity regimes suitable for maintaining healthy, naturally diverse and well-balanced estuarine ecosystems. The health of the Northern Everglades will be enhanced by improving land management to improve water quality and by completing water storage projects to better connect, manage and distribute water to the natural system.

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Last updated: January 24, 2011