Water issues are always an important issue up for debate in The Sunshine State, with the state’s ever-growing population, expansive agriculture industry, and intricate and numerous waterways in the state. The problems with blue-green algae are one of the issues at the forefront of water concerns in Florida.
What Is Blue-Green Algae?
Algae are aquatic plants that occur in both fresh and saltwater. Blue-green algae are found in waterways throughout the state of Florida, such as Lake Okeechobee, the St. Johns River, Florida Bay, and more.
While blue-green algae are a normal part of the waterways, the rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae known as algal blooms occur in both freshwater and marine water environments. When the conditions are favorable for the rapid growth of algae, and the ensuing overabundance of the algae has negative impacts on the environment, public health, and even the economies of affected communities.
Causes Behind Algal Blooms
There is no one cause that can be attributed to algal blooms. Researchers and scientists have traced algal bloom formations back to natural causes, raising water temperatures due to climate change, saltwater intrusion, and excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus entering waterways as runoff.
With no single cause, a solution to algal blooms must come from multiple sources. Florida’s agriculture industry has long undertaken efforts to reduce runoff of nutrients, such as adopting the 4R of Environmental Stewardship to reduce nutrient usage and runoff.
Legislative Action on Blue-Green Algae
There are currently no water quality standards relating to blue-green algae, but that could soon be changing. Senator Debbie Mayfield is sponsoring a bill containing recommendations from a task force on blue-green algae created by Governor Ron DeSantis. Additional bills are set to go before lawmakers that would give the Florida Department of Environmental Protection additional laws concerning pollution runoff, fertilizer runoff, and increased fines and penalties.
The FFAA supports all the efforts to protect our state’s waterways and improve water quality, and we know Florida’s agriculture industry has long been committed to improving water quality. We know that the benefits of UF/IFAS to Florida agriculture are immeasurable.