Water-Related News

Southwest Florida fertilizer ordinances aim to curb nutrient pollution, stop algae blooms

Ordinances across Southwest Florida create blackout periods in hopes of reducing pollution in area waterways and stop harmful algae blooms.

Rainy season is underway in Southwest Florida and with it comes an effort from local governments to curb excess nutrients in the area’s waters.

Lee and Collier counties, as well as the cities that lay within, have implemented fertilizer ordinances in hopes of curbing harmful algal blooms and reducing the nutrient pollution in storm water runoff.

The need to reduce nutrients was highlighted in 2018 when Southwest Florida was hit by blue-green algae and red tide at the same time, devastating wildlife and the local economy. Then governor Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator, declared states of emergency for multiple counties over the outbreaks.

The algae are natural but are fed by nutrients from farms, yards and wastewater from leaky pipes or septic tanks.

On Sanibel, red tide blooms and red drift algae prompted the city to issue its own fertilizer ordinance.

“Poor water quality not only impacts wildlife habitat and the quality of life for island residents, but it can directly impact our local economy by reducing property values and the overall experience of visitors to our island,” said Holly Milbrandt, the city’s deputy director of natural resources.

The city adopted its ordinance in 2007 as “part of a multi-pronged effort by the City of Sanibel to reduce nutrient leaching and runoff that lead to algae blooms and poor water quality,” she said.

Milbrandt said the need for community education is a priority, saying one of the goals of the ordinance is “to develop a strong awareness of the connection between activities in yards, streets, and stormwater systems and natural water bodies among all those who live and work in the City of Sanibel.”