Guest blog by Patty Scott
If you love to surf, kayak, swim, or sail, you probably care deeply about the condition of your local waterway. This month, as we celebrate #NationalWaterQuality Month, is the perfect time to learn about your watershed, what actions you can do to help protect it, and how you can get involved.
Learn about your Watershed
As a first step, you should learn more about the condition of your local watershed (e.g., the area of land that drains to a local river, stream, estuary, or lake). The Environmental Protection Agency’s “How’s My Waterway” app —- https://mywaterway.epa.gov — allows you to enter a zip code, address, or a specific location to learn about the health of your local waterbody. “How’s My Waterway” pulls information from state-reported monitoring data so you can find out whether your water is polluted, and if so, what pollutants are causing impairment (if known). The state of Florida is required to develop cleanup plans for those waters that do not meet their intended uses. Many Florida waters are impaired (polluted) because of nutrient pollution (excess nitrogen and phosphorus). Nutrient pollution comes from many sources, including excess fertilizers from lawns and gardens, failing septic systems, and pet waste. It can fuel harmful algal blooms, which can kill fish and make people sick.
Actions You Can Do To Make A Difference
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that their everyday actions have a direct impact on the health of their local waterbodies. Polluted runoff from streets, yards, and farms is now the leading cause of water pollution. Whenever it rains, pollutants get washed into storm drains that drain directly into your nearby stream, river, beach, or lake.
Here are a few simple things you and your family can do to help protect the health of our rivers, beaches, lakes, and estuaries:
- Don’t apply fertilizers during the rainy summer months
- Test your soil to determine how much, if any, fertilizer is necessary
- Landscape with native plants that require less fertilizers, pesticides, and water
- Always pick up after your pet
- If you have a septic system, be sure to inspect it regularly
- Use WaterSense and Energy Star appliances that use less water and energy
Volunteering to serve as a steward of your watershed is one of the best ways to help ensure that you will have healthy waters for swimming, fishing, and drinking water use.
There are several great opportunities to get involved here in Northeast Florida:
- Join us on the Litter Gitter. The Litter Gitter takes members of the community out on the water to remove trash and learn about the problem of marine debris. https://www.matanzasriverkeeper.org/litter_gitter
- St Johns Riverkeeper River Patrol — https://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/river-patrol/ — empowers individuals to get involved in monitoring the health of the St Johns River.
- First Coast Surfrider Foundation https://firstcoast.surfrider.org/
A huge shout out and thank you to the volunteers for all they do to look after our precious water resources.