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

Water-Related News

Lake Okeechobee water is heading to Florida’s coasts. What that means for red tide.

The organism that causes red tide was found at trace levels in three counties last week.

It didn’t take long for the aerial images to emerge.

Just days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said El Niño rains meant it needed to release Lake Okeechobee water into Florida estuaries, clean water advocates took to the sky to document the damage.

The images show plumes of murky lake water clashing with normally clear and sparkling waters. On the east coast, aerial imagery earlier this month showed lake water flowing out of the St. Lucie inlet and colliding with the Atlantic Ocean. On the west coast, the water poured out of the Caloosahatchee River and collided with the Gulf of Mexico.

The short-term consequences of Lake Okeechobee discharges are already becoming clear: In the St. Lucie River, salinity levels have dropped, putting oysters and other marine life at risk. If high volumes of lake water continue into April, oyster and fish spawning in the Caloosahatchee could be harmed, environmental nonprofits worry.