Tag Archives: storm water

Florida, a Lake Filled Sponge!

Major Causes of Pollution: Agriculture and Bio-Solids; Sewage Treatment Plants; Septic Tanks; Urban Suburban Fertilizers; Storm Water

Google Earth image of Florida north of Lake Okeechobee reveals thousands of Lakes, not all visible, 2019


From the air, one really notices that Florida is like a lake filled sponge! This past weekend, Ed and I flew to Gainesville in Alachua County, and then to Titusville, in Brevard County. This time, I was looking at lakes more than rivers. From the air, Florida is a patchwork of ponds and lakes reflecting like mirrors in the sun, a strange and beautiful landscape, or shall I say “waterscape?”

During the flight, I started thinking that if water bodies could talk, it would be the lakes that would have the strongest lobby. According to a 2006 article by Sherry Boas of the Sun Sentinel, the state of Florida has over 30,000 lakes! Many like Lake Apopka, in Orange County, historically, were altered because shoreline wetlands supported successful agricultural endeavors, kind of a smaller version of Lake Okeechobee; and again, just like Lake Okeechobee, although a great industry arose, this led to the demise of the lake. But like the Indian River Lagoon, and Caloosahatchee, people rose up to “Save Lake Apopka” and continue to work on this today: Orlando Sentinel Article 2018, shared by Janet Alford: (https://www.clickorlando.com/water/how-lake-apopka-went-from-floridas-most-polluted-lake-to-the-promising)

Yes indeed, Florida appears to float like a sponge in a sea of water. How we could think that our agriculture fertilizers and human sewage issues would not catch up with us on a broader level was naive. Excessive nutrients coming from humans on land are polluting waterbodies throughout the state which in turn also drain to pollute more waterbodies.  Whether it be ponds, lakes, estuaries, or the Everglades, we must wipe up our mess, clean out our sponge!

In 2018, almost pristine, Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County was compromised ~becoming full of very toxic #cyanobacteria #BlueGreenAlgae due to application of #biosolids (human sludge from sewage treatment plants “treated” and then spread on ground of fertilizer. Biosolid application that has been supported by our state government and the Dept of Agriculture is finally coming to light as a tremendous problem. DR Edie Wider of ORCA has been instrumental in bringing to light this issue: (https://www.teamorca.org) (Orlando Sentinel, Blue Cypress Lake: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-blue-cypress-sewage-pollution-20180405-story.html)
Lake Apopka in Orange & Lake Counties is the poster-child for death and destruction and the beginnings of rebirth #Florida #LoveFloridaLakes Save Lake Apopka!
Beautiful Lake Lochloosa in Alachua County very close to better known Lake Newnan, and Orange Lake. (http://www.jimporter.org/lakes/twinlakes/)

In wet times, Paynes Prairie in Alachua County becomes a lake and can be seen from many miles away ~a totally unique ecosystem, many animals even horses and buffaloes! https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/paynes-prairie-preserve-state-park


Approaching Titusville, I saw a phosphate mine and many, many lakes!
The many ponds and wetlands seemed to run into Lake Oclawaha that has a history with the controversial Rodman Reservoir and Cross State Barge Canal (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocklawaha_River)
Lake George in Volusia and Putnam Counties is now the second largest lake in #Florida (Apopka was largest before shoreline used for Ag.) and #brackish ~Explorer, John Bartram gave the lake its name in honor of King George lll in 1765. “Welaka” was previous name from the Timucua Indians (https://myfwc.com/recreation/cooperative/lake-george/)

Historic Photos from Florida Memory:

General Collection Florida Memory, Lake Apopka, ca. 1910
General Collection Florida Memory, Juniper Creek at Lake George, 1888
General Collection Florida Memory, Carraway Fish Camp, Lake Lochloosa ca. 1969


Department of Environmental Protection, Lakes: https://floridadep.gov/search/site/Lakes

Water Atlas Program for Florida Lakes: http://www.wateratlas.usf.edu/atlasoflakes/florida/

Florida Lake Society: http://flms.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8&Itemid=119

JTL blog “wetlands/ponds:” https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/wetlands/



No Fertilizer in This Wonderful 1925 Aerial, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Ariel 1925, SLR/IRL courtesy Archives of Sandra Thurlow as shared by Higgins Engineering WPB.

I have shared this 1925 aerial previously, but it is worth sharing again. What a wonderful photograph of a healthy confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Every time I see it, I see something new.

I see the white sands of the newly dug St Lucie Canal, today’s C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee,  in the far middle distance; I see dark, prevalent natural vegetation; I see an undeveloped Sailfish Point, Rocky Point, Manatee Pocket, Sewall’s Point, and Stuart; there are a few roads, but no airport; no spoil islands along Sewall’s Point; there are no “bridges to the sea; ” I see shoaling, as the St Lucie Inlet had been opened/widened not too long before ~located just around the left hand corner of the photograph; I see beaches at Hutchinson Island with beautiful coquina sands that had not been “re-nourished;” I see lush seagrass beds, the nurseries of life,  cradled against the shoreline; I see Paradise…

What would we do as far as development in this paradise, if we had it to do all over again?Or would we do just the same?

How we develop lands,  of course, affects the health of surrounding waters. Today, what can we do to reinvigorate our rivers, our paradise? How can we help bring back the seagrasses especially? Well, we can do a lot.

Think of all the lawns that would be in this photo today!  All the development, and how when it rains everything on our streets, parking lots, and lawns  runs into our drainage  systems and into our river.

Yesterday was June 1st, the beginning of rainy season. The beginning of fertilizer restrictions that were especially inspired for the entire Indian River Lagoon by the work of Sewall’s Point, the first to have a strong fertilizer ordinance,  in 2010. I am proud of this and thank my fellow commissioners of that era.

Do what you can by not fertilizing your yard this rainy season, and if you haven’t considered changing out your yard to a more natural, Florida Friendly landscape, perhaps begin the process.

Every little thing we do, counts. And the more we do, the pressure we can put on the “big polluters” to do the same.


BE FLORIDIAN program: “Saving Florida one lawn at a time”: http://befloridiannow.org/quick-start/

IRL Fertilizer Ordinances: https://sites.google.com/site/fertilizeruseintheirlwatershed/fertilizer-ordinances

Florida Friendly Yards: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu

Fertilizer Ordinances Martin County:https://www.martin.fl.us/sites/default/files/meta_page_files/Martin%20County%20Fertilizer%20Ordinance_FAQs.pdf

History of St Lucie River/IRL, development of canals, and Lake Okeechobee connection: by Bud Jordan, Rivers Coalition:

Comparing Color Change, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Confluence of SLR/IRL at Sewall's Point. "The Crossroads." 7-22-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Confluence of SLR/IRL at Sewall’s Point. “The Crossroads.” 7-22-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

Of course when it rains the waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon get darker due to runoff into the river. But unless it keeps raining, the water will clear up. The government likes to call this water “storm water.” This is all of the water that flows into the river from people’s yards, roads, agriculture fields, etc….

Lately it seems to me, our recent storms, like yesterday, and a few days before have concentrated  right along our coast. I am not certain, but I looked on the South Florida Water Management District’s website and it did not appear that C-23, C-24 and C-25 were open or if they were it was not a lot.  To check C-44 you have to go to the ACOE website; it is definitely not open. So I think most of what we are seeing right now in our river is runoff from the lands closest to the coast not necessary connected to canals. You can see a basin map below.

Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.
Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.

So anyway, the photo above with the murky-grey colored water was taken yesterday 7-22-15;  it was an outgoing tide; and it was around 11AM. Thank you Ed!

Today, I will share some of Ed’s photos and then compare others from when there was some rain, and the  ACOE was dumping into our river JUST FROM LAKE O, and others from very rainy times when dumping from Lake O and the area canals of C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 by ACOE/and SFWMD was “constant.”

THESE PHOTOS  IMMEDIATELY BELOW FROM yesterday 7-22-15 in the area of Sewall’s Point. They show grayish-murky waters from storm water coastal runoff but green-blue shines through…

Confluence of SLR/IRL at Sewall's Point. "The Crossroads." 7-22-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Confluence of SLR/IRL at Sewall’s Point. “The Crossroads.” 7-22-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Sailfish Flats 7-22-15. Photo Ed Lippisch.
Sailfish Flats looking towards Sewall’s Point. Hutchinson Island in foreground. 7-22-15. Photo Ed Lippisch.
Runoff plume as seen over St Lucie Inlet 7-22-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Runoff plume as seen over St Lucie Inlet 7-22-15. Jupiter Narrows on left and S. Hutchinson Island. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Reffs off Hutchinson Island. north of SL Inlet 7-22-15 St Lucie Inlet.
Reefs off Hutchinson Island. north of SL Inlet 7-22-15 St Lucie Inlet so appear clear. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

THIS PHOTO BELOW IS FROM July 14th, 2015,  a week ago.  It had not recently rained and my yard was bone dry.  It was an incoming tide. Sewall’s Point and confluence of SLR/IRL appears very “blue.” It is beautiful although seagrasses and the benthic community are still “recovering.” Blue does not mean the river is “healthy,” but BLUE IS GOOD.

Sewall's Point SLR/IRL from the air 7-14-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Sewall’s Point looking north SLR/IRL from the air 7-14-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

THIS PHOTO BELOW IS DATED  May 18th 2015. This is the tip of South Sewall’s Point looking towards the St Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Narrows. Sailfish Point is under the wing. It was not raining much at this time in March of 2015, but the ACOE/SFWMD was dumping from Lake Okeechobee because the lake was “too high.” The river looked brown and gross.


Flying north at convergence  of SLR/IRL at St Lucie Inlet.  (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 3-18-15.)
Flying north at convergence of SLR/IRL at St Lucie Inlet. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 3-18-15.)

Ironically, now we appear to be on the verge of a serious “water shortage”….too bad there isn’t a place to store this water somewhere north and/or  south of Lake O….that the ACOE and AFWMD dump during the dry season trying to get the lake down in case there is a hurricane….The agriculture community could use that water now as could the Everglades, Miami/Dade, wildlife etc…..the C-44 STA/Reservoir is wonderful and we are thankful but it is only for C-44 BASIN RUNOFF not Lake O.

THIS PHOTO BELOW IS SEWALL’S POINT’s west side, IRL, looking north with the confluence of the SLR/IRL in foreground. This  was September of 2013 during some of the highest releases from Lake O and C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. This is when the river was toxic and there were signs not to touch the water. It is very dark brown. Too dark.

Looking north toward Sewall's Point on east/left. The Sailfish Flats are to the right/east as is Sailfish Point. (September 2013.)
Looking north toward Sewall’s Point on east/left. The Sailfish Flats are to the right/east as is Sailfish Point. (September 2013.)

THIS DISGUSTING SHOT BELOW is of the St Lucie Inlet with Sailfish Point foreground. This photo was also taken in September 2013 during very high discharges from Lake O especially and the C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. Yes. It was raining! And certainly coastal storm-water runoff not going into canals as seen in the photo at the beginning of this blog was also included. It was all horrible, but the biggest single overdose during this time was from Lake O.

September 2013
September 2013, St Lucie Inlet JTL.

At this time our river was almost black in color and had a strange consistency due to all of the sediment and pollution in the water. During this year of 2013 our river lost about 85 percent of its seagrasses and ALL of its oysters.  The releases lasted from May through October. Salinity was way down and 0 in some places. Algae blooms, toxic in nature, were documented from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point. The Sandbar at the mouth of the inlet was posted as a health hazard area by Martin County. Real estate sales were lost and animals were absent; it was a true state of emergency as filed with the state by many local governments.

We live in a state of unbalance.

South Florida is a swinging pendulum of too much water and not enough water. It makes no sense. We waste water, yet we encourage more people to come to South Florida when do often don’t have enough as it is because we are dumping it all…

We want things to be like they were in 1970 and 80….

We want to be the sugar and vegetable basket for the world, and have everyone move here… Well no matter how much sugar we produce, or how many houses we build, “we can’t have our cake and eat it too.”

We need more storage south and north of Lake Okeechobee. If we can engineer to send a camera to photograph Pluto 2.7 billion miles away,  can’t we fix things here at home?

Well, unless we can figure out how to live on Pluto, we are going to have to—

Pluto 2015 as photographed by NEW HORIZONS spacecraft.
Pluto 2015 as photographed by NEW HORIZONS spacecraft.