Protecting Surface Waters
The Health of Our Surface Waters
Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (ACEPD) has been monitoring water quality in selected streams and lakes throughout Alachua County since the 1970's. The current monitoring program includes quarterly sampling of over 20 sites for nutrients, fecal coliform bacteria, inorganic indicators, and flow.
Elevated nutrient concentrations are one of the main threats to the surface waters in our urban areas, and are likely caused from fertilizers running off of lawns and effluent from septic systems.
High levels of fecal coliform bacteria are another concern in the urban creeks. Fecal coliform are bacteria that originate in the digestive track of warm blooded animals and are an indicator of fecal pollution. Likely sources of fecal coliform include septic systems, sanitary sewer overflows, pet wastes, illicit discharges, and wildlife. You can read more about our sampling results here.
ACEPD is currently involved with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (FDEP) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation for the Orange Creek Basin (OCB). There are nutrient TMDLs for Newnans Lake, Orange Lake, Lake Wauberg, and Alachua Sink on Paynes Prairie. There are Fecal Coliform TMDLs for Hogtown and Tumblin Creeks and Sweetwater Branch, read this fact sheet about these TMDLs. The stakeholders within the basin have developed a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) to address these water quality concerns. More information on TMDLs and the BMAP can be found here.
Many of the county's surface waters are under threat by exotic and invasive aquatic plant species such as Hydrilla, Water Lettuce, Hyacinth and Wild Taro. However, ACEPD is currently involved in weed control efforts on Bivens Arm Lake to protect native aquatic habitat.
Another way to fight back against exotics is to plant native species. ACEPD has partnered with Current Problems, Inc and IFAS in conducting hands-on workshops where native aquatic plants were used to vegetate stormwater ponds, eroding spring runs, and river banks. It is important to leave a buffer of native vegetation along all waterways because vegetation can filter out pollutants such as nutrients and sediments, provide habitat, and reduce flooding.
Learn more about how you can become involved through the Restore A Shore or Plant A Pond program.
Benefits of Buffers
Learn about the benefits of buffers by reading these publications created by Current Problems, Inc.:
- Living on the Waterfront
- Benefits of Buffers-Ribbons of Life
- Love your Stream
- A Citizens Guide to Stormwater Ponds
- Simple Tips for Waterfront Living
Minimum Flows and Levels
State law requires the Water Management Districts to establish Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) for a designated list of springs, rivers, and lakes. The purpose of the MFLs is to provide stronger protection of water and ecological resources by establishing minimum flows and water levels that will prevent significant harm from water withdrawals while also allowing for appropriate consumptive uses.
The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) has adopted minimum flows and levels for the upper Santa Fe River (above Santa Fe Spring) and released their report titled "Technical Report for MFL Establishment for the Upper Santa Fe River" and the peer review of the document. Approximately 25% of the land area in the Upper Santa Fe River basin is located in Alachua County, with the remainder located mainly in Columbia, Union, and Bradford Counties. SRWMD completed the MFL rule making process for the Upper Santa Fe River in 2007.
SRWMD is now working on the MFLs for the lower Santa Fe River (from Santa Fe Springs downstream to its confluence with the Suwannee River), which includes the Ichetucknee River, the Santa Fe River Rise, Poe Springs, Hornsby Spring, and additional unnamed springs on the river. In September 2012, the SRWMD presented the draft technical report for establishment of MFLs for the lower Santa Fe River system and springs.
Work on MFLs for Santa Fe Lake and Lake Alto are scheduled for 2015 and 2016, respectively. The St Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has not scheduled developing MFLs on the larger lakes in Alachua County (Newnans, Lochloosa and Orange) at this time. MFLs have been set for Lake Tuscawilla and Wauberg.
Want to learn more about MFLs?
Download SJRWMDs Fact Sheet