The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Watershed Monitoring Program
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Watershed Monitoring Program is a cooperative program between the FDEP, the state's five water management districts, and county governments. Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (ACEPD) is contracted to monitor and assess surface water and groundwater quality as part of the program. Of the state's 30 major basins, there are two located in Alachua County. One is the Orange Creek Basin, which is part of the larger Ocklawaha Basin. The other is the Santa Fe, part of Suwannee River Basin. The program is divided into two networks: Trend and Status.
The Trend network focuses on changes in water quality over time by monitoring the same sites over and over again over a long period of time. ACEPD has been a part of the Trend network since 1989 and monitors field analytes (pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, and temperature) at two sites monthly. The Alachua County sites are goundwater sites and include one well in the unconfined Floridan aquifer and one in the intermediate aquifer. ACEPD also monitors water levels at a network of wells to create a map showing the water levels of the aquifer (potentiometric surface map). To find out more visit our Groundwater page.
In contrast to the Trend network, which looks at a water quality in a few select sites over time, the Status network is designed to give a "snapshot" of groundwater and surface water quality, including springs, to characterize water quality during a set period of time. The program is designed to assess the overall water quality of the state within five year cycles, with the objective of representing the "big picture" statewide and regional water quality concerns. Within both the Santa Fe and Orange Creek Basin, there are five water resources from which random samples are collected: 1) unconfined aquifers, 2) confined aquifers, 3) lakes, 4) small streams, and 5) large rivers. Each source is sampled during a specific period, depending upon the resource type and location.
At the end of each five-year cycle, after all of Florida's basins are sampled, regional and statewide results are analyzed and reported by FDEP. From 2000 to 2001 over 50 sites were sampled in Alachua County as part of this program. For a full description of this state-wide program and how to obtain data, visit: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/monitoring/index.htm
Fish Kills in Alachua County
Fish kills occur for several reasons. As temperatures rise and days lengthen in summer months, algal blooms can occur as a result of elevated nutrients in lakes in Alachua County. When shallow organic rich lakes receive high nutrient loads, algae populations grow rapidly. At night when the algae stop photosynthesizing they sink and decompose which removes oxygen from the water column and decreases the dissolved oxygen in the lake. Water quality regulations and fish require dissolved oxygen levels above 5 mg/L and levels below this can cause fish to die. During the day dissolved oxygen levels will increase because of the algal photosynthesis, and fish deaths will decrease during the day. Also, some fish species are not able to survive low winter temperatures and shallow lakes can decrease in temperature substantially during prolonged periods of freezing air temperatures. For information on Alachua county waters with dates of fish kills Click HERE.