(By KC Schulberg) For 25 years, Calusa Waterkeeper has worked to protect our local waters. But today’s challenges are greater than ever – and we need the public’s help.
In Southwest Florida, the quality of our water directly impacts our economy and quality of life. Now, medical and scientific researchers tell us that deteriorating waterways threaten our health with toxins linked to liver cancer and neurological diseases.
We face recurring blue-green algae and red tide outbreaks due to agricultural run-off, nutrient pollution and sewage plants strained to the breaking point by exploding population and development, made worse by warming waters, more extreme precipitation events and loss of wetlands. And many of our local waterways suffer from high fecal bacteria, which also threaten human health.
What solutions are required?
- Modernize wastewater treatment plants.
- Invest in municipal sewage infrastructure.
- Replace or repair septic systems.
- Reduce polluted agricultural & ranching runoff.
- Restore wetlands to naturally filter water and replenish our aquifer.
- Implement responsible and enforceable growth management.
- Insist that elected officials make clean water a higher priority.
What can you do?
- Learn more about water quality issues, including harmful algae blooms and fecal contamination.
- Become a clean water ambassador and spread the word to your neighbors.
- Participate in community clean-ups of our waterways and beaches.
- Support plans to eliminate septic systems from our neighborhoods and local communities.
- Attend town halls, council, commissioner and agency meetings and let your voice be heard.
- Become an informed clean water voter. Vote and elect officials who support a clean water agenda.
What can you do at home?
- Bag pet waste and dispose of it in the garbage.
- If you have a septic tank, have it regularly inspected and maintained.
- If you live on a canal or on the banks of a waterway, create a 10-foot natural setback with native plants that do not need fertilizer.
- Replace more and more of your lawn with native plant species that require no fertilizer and little irrigation.
- Consider moving to a plant-based diet at least one day per week. Industrial meat production uses disproportionate amounts of water and fertilizer and creates excessive nutrient runoff that ends up in our waterways.
This year, Calusa Waterkeeper will produce a 40-minute water quality public health documentary – a follow-up to last year’s TROUBLED WATERS. We will also create a 15-minute film on the Estero Bay. We have begun source tracing of fecal bacteria in Billy’s Creek as part of a full-scale plan to restore that impaired body of water. We continue to test and report on water quality at 17 points around our watershed, and to press for positive agency and governmental policy through advocacy and occasional litigation. .
This link takes you to Calusa Waterkeeper’s just released 25th Anniversary Commemorative Issue magazine, containing nuggets from our 25-year history and plans for carrying the cause of clean water into the next quarter century. Water quality issues do not abate during times of COVID. These waterways are your waterways. Help us guarantee their health today and for generations to come. Southwest Florida’s wellbeing depends on it.
KC Schulberg is the Executive Director for Calusa Waterkeeper. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the Calusa Waterkeeper website HERE