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Lee County's Current Water Quality Status
 

Lee County has experienced a general decline in the quality of its surface water over the last several decades due to development, agriculture and other human activities. Natural phenomena such as hurricanes further exacerbate this decline in water quality by increasing stormwater pollution loading to local water bodies. This results in harmful algal blooms, negative impacts to human and wildlife health and our economy and has limited the use of our water resources. This can be attributed to the fact that our local waters have surpassed their natural capacity to assimilate nutrients due to over-enrichment from human activity. Lee County's watersheds are verified impaired for nutrients by FDEP and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) have been established. The County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are currently working on a Basin Management Action Plan or restoration plan to address water quality problems.

The major pollutant of concern in Lee County is nutrients. There are many sources of nutrients entering our watershed; atmospheric deposition, deposition from plants and wildlife, development, automobile exhaust, septic tanks, fertilizer (both residential and agricultural) and domesticated animal waste. Nutrients are naturally occurring in our watershed, however excessive nutrients added to the landscape and water through human activity is pollution. The solution to pollution is prevention through conservation and proper maintenance practices! Click here to access Lee County's water quality data.

DEP Water Quality Status Maps

To view maps showing water quality impairments and TMDLs in Lee County select from the following: 

 

To learn more about the location of impairments and TMDLs click here to view our guide to DEP WBIDs.

If you would like to locate the TMDL or water quality impairment status in your backyard try out our LeeSpInS interactive GIS mapping query. Here's how....

How to use LeeSpInS -

1) Click here to open the LeeSpInS viewer. If the map does not load immediately, click "Reset" in the top right corner of the web page.

2) LeeSpInS defaults to the STRAP number of the property where the computer you are using is located. If you would like to look at reports for a different location use the drop down menu to the right of the STRAP number in the upper right corner to search by Property Owner, Address or another STRAP number. Otherwise, leave this drop down menu as is.

3) Click on the drop down menu in the upper right to select "Districts Query", then click the "Query" button below and to the right of the drop down menu. It will take a few minutes to run this query.

4) Once the query is finished running, the report entitled "Spatial District Query Report" will open automatically. All of the details about Lee County services at the selected property appear on this report. The TMDL and Impaired Waters Status will appear at the very bottom of the report.

If you have any questions about this report please contact Karen Bickford, Lee County Division of Natural Resources at 239-533-8706 or kbickford@leegov.com.

     

What is a BMAP?

A Basin Management Action Plan or BMAP is a restoration plan that includes an inventory of existing and future watershed restoration projects (e.g. capital improvement projects, structural and non-structural), a timeframe for implementation, operational and maintenance plans that are required to meet the TMDLs for water bodies that are verified impaired by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This regulatory requirement will impact local government capital improvement budgets for Lee County, cities, special drainage and water control districts and has legal implications for failure to comply. Lee County's utilities and NPDES permits will be subject to stricter permit requirements in the near future. Lee County is currently working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, the Cities and non-governmental stakeholders to develop the BMAP. Click here to see BMAP Watersheds in Lee County.

There are three major basins as defined by FDEP in Lee County.  The Caloosahatchee, Charlotte Harbor (includes Pine Island/Sound, Matlacha Pass, western Cape Coral and Sanibel) and Everglades West Coast (includes Fort Myers, Estero, Estero Bay, Lehigh Acres, Bonita Springs).

 


The current status of the TMDL and BMAP schedule is as follows:

Charlotte Harbor: The verified impaired water assessment is currently ongoing. TMDLs are due for adoption by the Secretary of FDEP September 2010. BMAP development should be complete in 2011.

Caloosahatchee: TMDLs for nutrients in the Tidal Caloosahatchee were adopted by the Secretary of FDEP in June 2009. DEP, Lee County and other stakeholders are currently developing the BMAP.

Everglades West Coast: TMDLs for nutrients and fecal coliform were adopted by the Secretary of FDEP in September 2009. DEP, Lee County and other stakeholders are currently developing the BMAP.

 

New Developments On the Federal/State Front

What is a Water Quality Standard? A Water Quality Standard (WQS) is a tool used to measure the health of water bodies such as lakes, streams, and estuaries. The Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 lays the basic ground rules for determining if a water body is healthy or not, how to define the uses of a water body and associated health expectations for those uses and whether or not certain water bodies are subject to WQS (a natural lake system versus a detention pond). Water Quality Standards have two parts; Designated Uses are categories to differentiate fresh waters from marine as well as levels of expected use such as fishable/swimable, shellfishing, and drinking water; Water Quality Criteria are typically numeric values that indicate the health of waters depending on their Designated Uses.

New Proposed Rules for Water Quality Standards... In January 2010, EPA released proposed numeric nutrient water quality criteria for lakes and flowing waters, including canals, within the State of Florida and has proposed regulations to establish a framework for Florida to develop “restoration standards” for impaired waters. Florida's current nutrient water quality criteria are narrative meaning that in no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of flora or fauna.

EPA was ordered by Federal consent decree to develop a numeric nutrient water quality criteria pursuant to a determination made on January 14, 2009, under section 303(c)(4)(B) of the Clean Water Act. The determination states that numeric nutrient water quality criteria for lakes and flowing waters and for estuaries and coastal waters are necessary for the State of Florida to meet the requirements of Clean Water Act section 303(c). For more details please visit EPA's Water Quality Standards website.  

DEP is also currently working on restructuring the State's water quality standards by refining the designated uses of water bodies. Water quality criteria such as the new numeric nutrient criteria are applied to the various designated uses to determine if a water body is impaired and needs restoration or is healthy and meeting water quality standards. For more information on new rule development for the Designated Uses portion of Florida's state water quality standards please visit FDEP's website.

For more information about the Water Quality Program in Lee County please contact Karen Bickford at kbickford@leegov.com or 239-533-8706.