An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Conservation Foundation of Gulf Coast invites public to join Myakka restoration initiative

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast is seeking volunteers to contribute to an ongoing effort to support, restore, and enhance the Myakka wetlands region.

The not-for-profit land trust recently embarked on a river restoration project at their 432-acre Myakka Headwaters Preserve – where seven creeks converge to form the Myakka River. More than 15,400 plants of 27 species were planted, including 2,000 coreopsis, the Florida loosestrife, nearly 1,000 wetland trees from 10 species, and 9,000 plugs of a wetland grass called maidencane.

The restoration effort is seeking volunteers on April 21 from 9-11:30 a.m. Volunteers will primarily be planting native trees and wildflowers and should be capable of working outdoors on uneven terrain for the duration of the visit. The most challenging aspect will likely be the uneven terrain and hot/cold weather conditions.

Red tide health advisory lifted for Sarasota County beaches

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SARASOTA – The Red Tide Health Advisory that has been in place at all 16 Sarasota County beaches since December 28, 2022 has been lifted.

The beach advisory signs have been changed at all beaches.

There are no advisories in place for any beaches in Sarasota County at this time. Results for Sarasota County beaches will be posted today at

FWC red tide status updates are posted on the FWC website at

Mote Marine's Beach Conditions report is updated twice daily with lifeguards at

City of Venice seeking applicants for Environmental Advisory Board

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Want to get more involved in the community? Volunteering to serve on a City of Venice advisory board is an excellent way to do so.

The City currently has three vacancies on its Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) -- 2 regular members and 1 student member.

This eight-member board facilitates the development of an integrated environmental strategy by evaluating the City's current policies and practices and providing specific recommendations for improving the City's environmental impact. Recommendations are based on the examination of the City and comparison with best practices in other communities. Recommendations shall include projections of cost, manpower, time constraints and other pertinent factors for implementing the recommendations.

EAB members shall have appropriate backgrounds in environmental policy or related fields and should demonstrate an interest and knowledge in environmental issues. The board shall be composed of seven City residents or the owners of real property located within the City, and one student member from a Venice area high school recommended by the principal or designee. Five of the members must be City residents. This board meets bimonthly, the fourth Wednesday of the month, at 1 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

More information on this board and requirements, along with an application, can be found online here. You can also contact Amanda Hawkins-Brown in the City Clerk’s Office at or 941-882-7391. All applications meeting the requirements will be considered when vacancies occur. If you are selected to serve on a City board, you will be required to comply with the state public records and sunshine laws.

Vacancies will be open for applications until filled.

Longboat Key to host water conservation workshop on March 28th

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Learn where our potable water comes from, the future of Florida's supply, and what steps we, as individuals, can take to conserve it.

This free presentation will cover where people use the most water in and outside of the home, leak detection tips, water-efficient appliances and other devices, and some simple ways to reduce our use at home by changing our habits. If everyone in our area reduced their water use by 10%, we’d save over 44 million gallons of water per day!

When and Where:
Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Town Hall
501 Bay Isles Road, Longboat Key

Instructor: Jackie Leboutiz, Water Resources Program Assistant, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County

Sarasota County recognizes water quality commitment

Sarasota County logo

March 22 is identified internationally as World Water Day, and the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners signified the importance of the day and the county’s year-round commitment to water quality with a local proclamation during their March 21 meeting.

Water resources are vital for quality of life, environmental stability, and a flourishing economy. Sarasota County works diligently to implement programs that provide ample clean and safe water through all the county’s departments, including Public Utilities, Public Works, and Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, as well as the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and Sustainability (UF/IFAS), and community partners.

Sarasota County's Public Works department continually updates watershed management plans and evaluates best practices for improving water quality and reducing stormwater runoff and flooding.

Several Public Works Stormwater projects are in progress including the Alligator Creek Stream Restoration, Phillippi Creek Northwest Tributaries Natural Systems Restoration, Catfish Creek Natural Systems Restoration, and Dona Bay Phases two through five. These projects are intended to reduce nutrient loading to our bays resulting in increased seagrass and the plethora of marine life dependent on this underwater habitat.

“As we celebrate and recognize World Water Day it is important to remember that water is cyclical. Each of us affects the water we recreate on, the water we fish in, and the water we drink," said Public Utilities Stormwater Division Manager Amanda Boone. “It is important to remember we all play a role in ensuring clean water, and as one community, we must all recognize our impacts and be the best stewards we can be.”

Community members are invited to adopt one of the county’s Watergoats, barriers that help to collect floatable debris and microplastic before they enter streams, bays or canals, participate in the annual Citizen Seagrass Survey in June, and reduce the use of lawn fertilizers June through September.

In addition to upgrading the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility to Advanced Wastewater Treatment, the Sarasota County Public Utilities department has also initiated enhancements to the Carlton Water Treatment Facility, eliminating fats, oils, and greases, and reducing flushing.

“Sarasota County has done an excellent job at implementing projects to support our future and protect our freshwater supply. Since implementing these projects, more than 70 million gallons of water were saved last year,” said Public Utilities Water Division Manager Brooke Bailey. “By replacing end-of-life equipment, Public Utilities is reducing demand and increasing efficiency on waste, reclaimed, and potable water systems.”

Residents and businesses are reminded to scrape, contain and trash fats, oils and greases to ensure the safe flow of sewage and protect area waters.

An additional 1.3 million gallons of water were also saved through UF/IFAS’s free irrigation evaluation service, plus 1.4 million gallons of rainwater was collected by nearly 400 rain barrels and reused for irrigation.

"Together with our county and community partners, UF/IFAS aims to provide the knowledge and education necessary to empower residents to adopt habits that reduce non-point source pollution and the associated potential for water quality impairment,” said UF/IFAS Water Resource Agent Michael D’Imperio. “Through collaboration, we can save water, reduce pollution, and protect nature.”

Community members are invited to the UF/IFAS "Protecting Our Waters: World Water Day" event on March 25, install a rain barrel, schedule an irrigation assessment, or volunteer for the water stewardship program.

Water quality is important to every Sarasota County resident and visitor. Sarasota County Government is committed to protecting and enhancing water quality wherever and whenever possible. Together, we can preserve our most precious resource and, by doing so, protect the Sarasota County way of life and economy, as well as wildlife, habitats, and more.

Click here to watch the board's presentation of the proclamation.

Learn more at or by calling 311.

Seagrass loss threatens environment on Florida Gulf Coast

New surveys of seagrass on Florida’s Gulf Coast show the vital marine plant is continuing to lose ground at a rapid pace in Tampa and Sarasota Bay.

Since 2016, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has documented losses of almost 30% of Tampa Bay’s seagrass and around 26% in Sarasota Bay.

The decline comes after local waters were slammed with pollution from the Piney Point industrial site and severe red tides over the past several years.

But the seagrass losses also have increased despite many areas meeting state water quality targets, which environmentalists say need changing.

Scientists say action must be taken to prevent Tampa and Sarasota’s seagrass ecosystem from collapsing like the one in the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast, where manatee deaths are highest.

FWC, DEP visit SW Florida to survey red tide conditions, ensure local needs are being met

On March 14, 2023, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Acting Executive Director Dr. Thomas Eason and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton participated in a flyover to observe current red tide conditions firsthand and meet with local stakeholders.

The state is taking an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to respond to the red tide impacting Florida’s west coast. The FWC, DEP and Florida Department of Health are working together to ensure a coordinated state response and are committed to coordinating with local governments to provide resources to assist in cleanup efforts and will continue to monitor the red tide bloom to ensure that all local needs are being met.

The FWC is closely monitoring a red tide bloom across Southwest Florida, including Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Red tide (Karenia brevis) is a naturally occurring microscopic algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year. 

‘No Swim’ advisory issued for Lido Casino Beach in Sarasota

SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County health officials issued a precautionary “No Swim” advisory for Lido Casino Beach Thursday after water quality tests found high levels of enterococcus bacteria.

While the beach remains open, wading, swimming, and other water activities are not recommended.

According to The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota, enterococcus bacteria can come from a variety of natural and human-made sources including pet waste, stormwater runoff, and human sewage.

“When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill,” DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham said. “People, especially those who are very young, elderly, or who have a weak immune system that swallow water while swimming can get stomach or intestinal illnesses.”

The department says shellfish, including crabs and shrimp, collected in the immediate area of any beach with a no-swim advisory in place should not be eaten. Finfish caught live and healthy can be eaten if filleted.

The “No Swim” advisory will be lifted once follow-up water testing results meet the EPA’s recreational water quality standards.

More information »

Dead fish on the beach? Longboat Key leans on nature for cleanup.

The town of Longboat Key cleans up fish kills from red tide only after four tidal cycles fail to clear them.

As anyone on the Key knows, red tide is still here with uncertainty on when it will pack its bags for a while.

Karenia brevis is the naturally occurring organism that can lead to harmful algal blooms that cause red tide.

Because it is a naturally occurring, mostly ever-present organism, there is not much local officials can do to solve the issue or lessen its effects.

Town commissioners discussed what responsibilities they have when it comes to monitoring red tide, cleaning up dead fish and getting out information to concerned residents and visitors at their March 6 regular meeting.

“It’s affecting everybody I know that stays outside right now,” Commissioner Mike Haycock said. “I have gotten a number of complaints about fish kills and the smell from fish kills.”

Town Manager Howard Tipton said the amount of dead fish on the beaches and in the canals had not met the threshold for a cleanup using town resources.

However, on March 8, town staff sent an email notifying people of Manatee County’s plan to clean up the beaches for the entire 10-mile stretch of the island. The county raked the beach to help the town remove some of the dead sea life.

University of Central Florida uses 6-foot ‘test tubes’ to study red tide

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals.

A potential treatment for Florida’s devastating red tides took another step toward widespread deployment after successful testing in Sarasota Bay.

Additional detailed data analysis is required to confirm results, but UCF Assistant Professor of Biology Kristy Lewis is encouraged by the large-scale test of a red tide mitigation technology called clay flocculation that was performed in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory.

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals. These tubes — about six feet in diameter — extend from the waters’ surface to the ocean floor, allowing scientists to test real ocean conditions within a controlled setting. Think of it like a giant test tube.

Experts and technicians from Mote Marine Laboratory and funding from Florida Sea Grant provided the necessary resources to set eight limnocorrals into Sarasota Bay. Four columns were treated with a fine spray of the clay solution, while the other four served as a control.

Clay flocculation works by the clay attaching to the Karenia brevis algae, which is responsible for Florida red tide, and sinking them to the ocean floor. Lewis has spent the last three years carefully testing the impact of introducing this non-native mineral into the ocean ecosystem. She’s not only looking for changes in the water’s nutrients and quality, but also evaluating how the clay impacts the health of invertebrates like blue crabs, sea urchins and clams.

“We want to make sure the cure is not worse than the disease,” she says.

Initial plans for the large-scale test were simply to measure the impact of the clay on the ecosystem, but the unexpected appearance of an actual red tide event heightened the realism of the experiment. Initial results suggest the clay performed as expected, but there’s still a question of whether the algae’s toxins remain dormant or active on the ocean floor. Water samples collected during the experiment should provide an answer.

EPA to limit toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first federal limits on harmful “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a long-awaited protection the agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.

The plan would limit toxic PFAS chemicals to the lowest level that tests can detect. PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a group of compounds that are widespread, dangerous and expensive to remove from water. They don’t degrade in the environment and are linked to a broad range of health issues, including low birthweight and kidney cancer.

“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said in an interview.

Fox called the federal proposal a “transformational change” for improving the safety of drinking water in the United States. The agency estimates the rule could reduce PFAS exposure for nearly 100 million Americans, decreasing rates of cancer, heart attacks and birth complications.

Sarasota County March 14 Red Tide update

Red tide is present at Sarasota County beaches. Each morning, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources staff evaluate county public beaches and access points to determine if red tide impacts and marine debris wash-up meet the beach cleaning policy threshold. If accumulated debris meets the threshold, mechanical or manual (hand picking, rakes) are deployed.

As of March 14, this morning’s monitoring showed improvements throughout Sarasota County, with Lido Key experiencing the most impacts. See this link for images of March 14 beach conditions.

As part of regular beach maintenance operations, Sarasota County Parks Recreation and Natural Resources staff perform weekly beach raking at Siesta and Lido beaches throughout the year. On Monday, March 13, routine mechanical beach raking occurred on Siesta Beach and again on Tuesday, March 14. Due to equipment issues, today's regular raking operations were shifted from Lido Key to Siesta Beach. Raking on Lido Key is planned for tomorrow, Wednesday, March 15, and the regular beach maintenance schedule is set to resume Thursday, March 16.

Note: This mechanical beach raking is regular beach operations and maintenance. The special beach cleaning policy threshold has not been met, and red tide-related beach cleaning has not begun.

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Sarasota County is home to more than 50,000 acres of natural areas to explore. You are reminded to pack-in-and-pack-out when visiting county beaches, parks, trails and natural areas.

Seaweed blob visible from space takes aim at Florida Gulf coast

TAMPA — Marine scientists are tracking a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom that is so large, it can be seen from space – and it’s heading towards Florida’s Gulf coast.

These sargassum blooms are nothing new, but scientists say this one could be the largest in history.

The thick mat of algae drifts between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, providing habitat for marine life and absorbing carbon dioxide, but it can also wreak havoc when when it gets closer to shore. It blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes.

Florida’s Gulf coast is already grappling with an algae bloom amid the busy spring break tourism season. Red tide has caused dead fish to wash ashore in droves, while the risk of respiratory irritation for humans has cancelled events and driven beachgoers away.

With a blanket of sargassum approaching, spanning twice the width of the continental U.S., scientists warn that Florida beaches could soon be inundated with seaweed.

Reef installation to fight algae and red tide

On Wednesday afternoon, a new tool was put in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the water and support Red Tide research, human health, and the ecosystem.

Ten miles offshore and 30 feet underwater, giant cement blocks will help scientists better understand what’s happening in the water.

“So the importance of Kimberley’s reef is it’s an underwater platform. It’s in a fixed location. We can put instrumentation out there. We can study animals. We can study algae and plant life all at the same spot. And we can study it over time,” professor in The Water School at FGCU, Mike Parsons, said.

Eighteen culverts weighing more than 19,000 pounds each provide fascinating research opportunities and habitats for marine life.

“And the fish are gonna be like, hey, look, here’s a new home. This is the new IT neighborhood,” Parsons said.

And the team can better understand how those fish, crabs, and other creatures respond to change.

“We can monitor for red tide and the impacts of red tide,” Parsons said. “How do fish populations react to red tie? Do they move away? Do they, unfortunately, die? When do they come back?”

And those are big questions while Southwest Florida deals with a Red Tide outbreak and dead fish scattered in the waters off Bonita Beach. Sensors and instruments on the buoys monitor oceanographic conditions on the Gulf and reef.

Florida’s love-hate relationship with phosphorus

The state has mined and abused the Devil’s Element for decades, and now it is increasingly fouling precious coastal waters

In the summer of 2018, in Stuart, a small beach community on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, some hundred panicked homeowners showed up at City Hall in the middle of the business day to demand something be done about the green goo plaguing their coastal waters. It was a sweltering July day, the kind towns like Stuart are built for, but signs on the boardwalk outside City Hall warned visitors:

As people at the meeting introduced themselves and stated their affiliations, it became clear this was not a typical gathering of environmentalists. They weren’t strategizing about how to protect some beleaguered species and the far?away lands or waters upon which it depends. These people, who represented businesses as well as homeowners’ associations and fishing and yachting clubs, spoke as though they were the threatened species.

“I need help,” said Will Embrey, a scraggly commercial fisherman whose business had collapsed right along with the region’s schools of mackerel not long after the green slime arrived. “There are a lot of people like me that need help.” The 45-?year-?old was suffering chronic stomach pain that was initially diagnosed as diverticulitis, and then ulcerative colitis, and then Crohn’s disease. Eventually doctors had given up trying to figure out what made Embrey so sick.

Embrey didn’t need to spend tens of thousands more dollars on more specialists, CT scans and lab tests to figure out the source of his illness. He knew it was the poisoned water, and he wasn’t alone.

International treaty to protect world’s oceans will help SWFL

A new international treaty paves the way toward establishing large marine protected areas and setting global standards for environmental impacts on our oceans.

The treaty would also regulate countries and companies that commercialize marine resources for pharmaceuticals or cosmetics and make research conducted in international waters more inclusive. Southwest Florida’s waterways, for instance, are plagued by chemical and plastic pollution, overfishing and deep-sea mining. When it comes to international waters, there’s practically no oversight.

“Internationally, we do not have a single treaty that protects the high seas,” said Jennifer Jones, director of the Center for Environment and Society at Florida Gulf Coast University. “And when we talk about high seas, we mean those that are beyond the coastlines and territorial boundaries of countries.”

Jones likens these places to the Wild West, the last true aquatic wilderness.

? “You think about the high seas… it’s two-thirds of our ocean—only one tiny percent of that is protected,” Jones said. “And the high seas, they provide food, they provide oxygen, they provide climate regulation.”

The new treaty aims to protect 30% of our ocean resources by 2030. Think of the high seas as the world’s common space; we all share it. The better the health of the water and sea life, the better the health of the environment within our coastlines.

Florida impacts kick federal beach renourishment policy back to panel

'A beach that’s covered by homes and hotels, and retreat is simply not possible.'

A document setting out federal fishery managers’ opposition to beach renourishment and, should it occur, best management practices is headed back to an advisory panel after concerns about how it would affect Florida.

The policy document begins, “In general, frequent and widespread beach renourishment projects (dredge-and-fill) occurring in the United States southeast together may cause measurable impacts to (essential fish habitat) under the jurisdiction of the (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council).

“Coastal communities are strongly encouraged to evaluate the full range of alternatives, including retreat, to these types of projects when addressing erosion and sea level rise.”

The Council governs federal saltwater fisheries from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Florida Keys. Members of the SAFMC Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel (AP) worked on the document last year. They will get another shot at it after the decisions this week.

The latest language notably differs from the stronger words in a previous draft.

Was Florida red tide made worse by Hurricane Ian? Here’s what we know

Red tide researchers agree: The toxic algae would still be flaring up — with or without the powerful Category 4 storm.

Hurricane Ian slammed the state less than three weeks before red tide appeared, leading many to link the storm with the toxic algae’s return. But what role, if any, did Ian play in the arrival of this latest red tide? We asked experts at three Florida universities, plus two leading state and federal scientists, and their answers boiled down to these main points:

Red tide would still be flaring up, with or without the hurricane; it’s still possible the storm brought red tide closer to shore; the present red tide today is likely no longer feeding on pollution dumped by Ian months ago, and Ian proved scientists still have much to learn about the relationship between storms and toxic algal blooms.

Red tide is getting worse along the Gulf beaches

Southerly winds are pushing the red tide blooms northward into Pinellas County.

State environmental officials on Wednesday said high levels of red tide were reported off the coast of Sarasota County and in Roberts Bay, near Venice. And medium levels continue to affect Pinellas beaches from Redington Beach to Fort DeSoto.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science issued an advisory this week, cautioning that beachgoers may experience respiratory irritation while visiting beaches in Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received from all three counties.

Southerly winds are being blamed for pushing the toxin north from Charlotte and Lee counties, where red tide first emerged in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

It has pushed it as far north as the Panhandle. Red tide was observed at background concentrations in one sample collected from Okaloosa County.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas County south predict northern movement of surface waters and northwestern/western movement of subsurface waters in most areas over the next 3½ days.