Water Quality Outlook
United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has
officially announced a final rule for Enterococci criteria for
Florida’s Coastal Recreational Waters, marine coastal waters
including estuaries, although all Enterococci reports are
included in this report.
This rule provides a 30-day geometric mean of 35 colony-forming
units per 100 milliliters (cfu/100 ml) or less to be considered
safe for swimming and water contact sports, and a single sample
maximum of 104 cfu/100 ml or less at Designated Bathing
Beaches. Please note that the Enterococci criteria are
already in use for beach monitoring by the Escambia County
Health Department at designated bathing beach locations.
Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Bacteria – 1986.
data for sites 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 15, and 16 provided by the
Escambia County Health Department.
information or current swimming advisories, call the Escambia
County Health Department at 595-6700 or the Santa Rosa Health
Department at 983-5275.
Coliform bacteria live within the intestines of warm blooded
animals. The presence of these bacteria may indicate sewage
contamination and the presence of other harmful pathogens which
pose significant threat to humans. Contaminated water can cause
disease either by direct contact, which threatens recreational
water users, or by ingestion of contaminated shellfish.
Livestock, inadequate wastewater treatment plants, leaky septic
systems, sanitary landfills, and stormwater runoff are common
sources of fecal and other bacteria. Fecal Coliform data for
sites 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 15 provided by the Escambia County Health
Department. Monitoring for the Florida Healthy Beaches Sites
(see link provided) varies seasonally and provided bi-monthly as
membrane filtration of a water sample containing Fecal
bacteria, the membrane is placed upon suitable
microbiological growth media and incubated at 44.5 degrees
Celsius for 24 hours. The number reported represents the
number of colony forming units per 100 milliliters of water.
Exceeding 800 colonies/100 milliliters for any single sample and
a 30 day geometric mean exceeding 200 colonies/100 mls indicates
that the waterbody sampled does not meet recreational water quality
standards and contact should be avoided. Exceeding 400
colonies/100 milliliters in 10% of samples taken in a 30 day
period indicates that the waterbody does not meet recreational
water quality standards and caution should be exercised.
Salinity is a measurement
of the salt content in water and is usually expressed in Parts
Per Thousand (PPT). Seawater has about 35 parts of salt per 1000
parts of water. Drinking water is less than 0.5 PPT. Salinity
levels control the types of plants and animals that live in the
different zones of the estuary.
is a critical factor influencing several aspects of the aquatic
ecosystem. It influences biological activity and many chemical
variables within a water body. As water temperature increases,
the capacity of a water molecule to retain dissolved oxygen
decreases. Water temperature influences the rate of plant
photosynthesis, the metabolic rates of aquatic organisms, and
the sensitivity of organisms to toxic wastes, parasites, and
Dissolved oxygen is an essential indicator in assessing an
estuary’s health and normally measured in parts per million
(mg/liter). Oxygen enters the water from the atmosphere
and through aquatic plant and phytoplankton photosynthesis. The
oxygen is then available for aquatic organisms to utilize in
basic metabolic processes. Most plants and animals can grow and
do well when the dissolved oxygen level exceeds 5 mg/l. Levels below 3 mg/l causes
stress and/or death in many species. Oxygen is used
up during the decomposition of organic material. An overload of
nutrients from human activities cause overgrowth of
phytoplankton. The phytoplankton ultimately die and fall to the
bottom where they decompose, using up oxygen.
observations which may include the presence of
sea nettles and
For more information, contact: