Nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, are naturally present in the water and are necessary for the healthy growth of plants and animals. On land, nutrients can boost plant growth on farms and within forests. But, in the wrong place or in the wrong amount, too many nutrients can cause severe environmental damage with major economic consequences. Excess nutrients can negatively impact fish, wildlife and humans by degrading water quality or causing the rapid growth of algae, which may lead to eutrophication.  

There are a number of sources of nutrients that enter our waterway from both urban and rural settings. These include stormwater runoff from urban settings, domestic wastewater, agricultural operations, industrial operations, and more. Learn more about some of these sources in the materials below.

Southwest Florida Fort Myers River Front Detention Basin

Stormwater Management Guide

Stormwater runoff is generated from rain events that result in large amounts of water flowing quickly over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops before it can soak into the ground. The runoff picks up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils, and dirt/sediment that can harm our rivers, streams and lakes. To protect these valued natural resources, municipalities, construction and industries activities, and others use stormwater controls, known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), to manage their runoff. BMPs, by design, aim to prevent pollution by controlling it at its source.

Stormwater Guide

Photo of a water cascading over the weir of a clarifier. Two seagulls are perched in the weir.

Domestic Wastewater

Each person generates about 100 gallons of domestic wastewater each day. This wastewater must be managed to protect public health, water quality, recreation, fish and wildlife, and the aesthetic appeal of our waterways.

In Florida, domestic wastewater is treated either by on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS) or by centralized domestic wastewater treatment facilities. The Florida Department of Health's Onsite Sewage Program currently regulates OSTDS, including septic tanks, which treat a good portion of our state's domestic wastewater. However, the majority of domestic wastewater is treated by larger centralized treatment facilities, which are regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. There are about 2,000 permitted domestic wastewater facilities regulated by DEP, with a total treatment capacity of over 2.7 billion gallons per day.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection   Florida Department of Health

Understanding S.S.O.s Thumbnail

Understanding Sanitary Sewer Overflows

A sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) is any overflow, spill, release, discharge or diversion of untreated or partially treated wastewater due to an obstruction, system failure, or capacity exceedance at the wastewater facility or in the contributing collection system. View this infographic to learn how you can help to reduce the overall impact that SSOs have on the environment and local infrastructure.

Infographic

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Understanding Reclaimed Water

Reclaimed water is highly treated domestic wastewater that can be reused for irrigation and other beneficial purposes to extend our water supplies. View this infographic to learn how reclaimed water is used and how to use reclaimed water responsibly.

Infographic

Spray Irrigation

AGRICULTURAL BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are practical, cost-effective actions that agricultural producers can take to conserve water and reduce the amount of nutrients (fertilizers and animal waste) and other pollutants entering adjacent waterbodies or the groundwater system. BMPs are designed to benefit water quality and water conservation while maintaining or even enhancing agricultural production.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Did You Know?

Did you know the following information about Nutrients?
Excess phosphorus and nitrogen applied to the land surface can cause nutrient over-enrichment of surface waters that, in turn, leads to algal blooms. You can help prevent over-enrichment by minimizing the use of fertilizer.
Yard waste and other debris, if not properly disposed, can travel to our waterways during periods of rainfall and storm events, with negative impacts on the environment and stormwater infrastructure. Yard waste such as grass, leaves and small tree limbs should be disposed of properly.
Pet waste left on the ground can increase nutrients and introduce bacteria into our waterbodies where it presents a health risk. Always pick up after your pets right away.
Did you know the following information about Stormwater?
Stormwater runoff is generated from precipitation that flow over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, and does not soak into the ground. The runoff picks up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils and dirt/sediment that can harm our rivers, streams, lakes and coastal waters.
You can help reduce stormwater runoff by directing rain gutters and downspouts away from paved surfaces. Also consider using mulch, bricks, gravel or other porous materials for walkways, patios and driveways.
Yard debris, such as leaves, brush, grass clippings and other plant material, are a significant source of stormwater pollution. This debris can also clog culverts, storm drains, and pipes, causing flooding.
Cleaning up trash and yard waste in your yard, gutters and around storm drains can help prevent flooding and stormwater pollution. Try sweeping debris from driveways and sidewalks instead of using a hose.
You should never blow leaf litter and grass clippings into the road or stormwater systems.
You can help prevent stormwater pollution and localized flooding by keeping drainage and retention systems such as ditches, swales, ponds and culverts clear of debris and trash. Be sure to clear out grass clippings, leaves, tree branches and other debris.
You can help control soil erosion by planting vegetation along the edges of stormwater ponds and planting over bare spots in the landscape.
You should never fill in drainage or retention systems, such as ditches, swails, ponds and culverts, as this will reduce the storage and treatment capacity of the stormwater system.
You should always report clogged or damaged stormwater systems, including eroded slopes, to your local government, homeowners association or other proper authority.
Did you know the following information about Sanitary Sewer Overflows?
A deteriorating or aging sewer system that can be expensive to repair. DEP has a State Revolving Fund (SRF) program that provides low-interest loans for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure upgrades. For more information on the SRF program, visit FloridaDEP.gov.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity administers the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program. This is a competitive grant program that awards funding to units of local government in small urban and rural areas for housing and community development activities, including water and sewer improvement projects. For more information on the Small Cities CDBG program, visit FloridaJobs.org/SmallCitiesCDBG.
Blocked, broken or cracked pipes and other equipment or power failures can lead to an SSO. Tree roots can grow into the sewer. Sections of pipe can settle or shift so that pipe joints no longer match. Sediment and other material can build up and cause pipes to break or collapse.
Although wastewater facilities are permitted and designed to safely and properly collect and manage a specified wastewater capacity, obstructions or extreme conditions can cause SSOs.
When the flow of wastewater is obstructed in the pipe, the wastewater may then back up and overflow through a manhole, cleanout, toilet, sink or drain. This overflowing wastewater may then make its way into the environment, a house or a business.
Fats, oils and grease thicken as they cool, coating pipes and equipment. This can lead to backups, overflows and pump failure.
You can help prevent SSOs by disposing of food waste properly. Collect oil and grease in a container and dispose of it in the trash or at an approved collection site. Use a strainer to catch smaller food particles that can attach to build up in pipes, tangle or expand when wet to form clogs.
A process called "inflow and infiltration" may lead to SSOs. Inflow and infiltration occurs when too much stormwater or groundwater flows into the wastewater system. This can occur through leaky pipes and valves, or where roof drains, down spouts or groundwater pumps are directly connected to the wastewater system. These types of connections are typically prohibited.
To minimize water entering the sewer system, avoid doing laundry or using the dishwasher during heavy rain storms. Also, make sure your home's sewer clean out cap is intact and that your rain gutters are not connected to your sewer line.

Additional Resources

dolphin cresting at the beach

Florida Healthy Beaches Program

Florida Department of Health conducts routine bacterial monitoring in an effort to protect the health and safety of Florida’s beach visitors. Results of the routine monitoring and any resultant advisories are provided by local county health departments.

Call for Project Suggestion

Image of mulched flowerbed and pervious pavement.

Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure is a cost-effective and resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits. While conventional stormwater infrastructure is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social and economic benefits. 

Learn More

Image of Florida Friendly Landscaping

Florida Friendly Landscaping

Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) means using low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices. U..F I.F.A.S. Extension and Florida Friendly Landscaping Program LogoLearn how you can have a beautiful landscape that could save you time, energy and money while protecting our future.

Learn More About FFL

Image of Cascades Park Stormwater Project in Tallahassee, FL.

FLORIDA’S POLLUTANT REDUCTION PROJECT TOUR

Tour 20 projects designed to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution, unlike pollution that is generated from site-specific activities including industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many sources, including stormwater and septic systems.

Tour Projects

2019 Statewide annual report summary. Report includes Total Maximum Daily Loads, Basin Management Action Plans, Minimum flows and water levels, and recovery and prevention strategies.

ANNUAL REPORT ON FLORIDA’S WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY

Each year, DEP prepares a report detailing the status of environmental assessment and restoration programs, including total maximum daily loads, basin management action plans, minimum flows and minimum water levels, and recovery or prevention strategies.

STAR Report

Image of Protecting Florida Together water quality dashboard

Water Quality Status Dashboard

The Protecting Florida Together Water Quality Dashboard delivers relevant water quality information statewide including blue-green algae, red tide and nutrient monitoring data. This map helps to ensure transparency and accountability with respect to our water quality data and its exchange with the public. Information for this map provided by DEP and FWC.

Water Quality Dashboard  Dashboard Overview

Collage of What is Eutrophication Video from NOAA. Image of US, Image of bacteria discharging carbon dioxide, NOAA logo, Image of fish breathing oxygen

What is Eutrophication?

Learn about eutrophication from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Eutrophication is a big word that describes a big problem in the nation's estuaries. Eutrophication occurs when the environment becomes enriched with nutrients, increasing the amount of plant and algae growth to estuaries and coastal waters.

Learn about Eutrophication

Irrigation storage trench with spray irrigation

AGRICULTURAL BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Best Management Practice manuals provide essential information for agricultural producers working to conserve water and reduce the amount of nutrients and other pollutants entering our surface water and groundwater systems. 

Visit FDACS

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NUMERIC NUTRIENT CRITERIA TRACKER

DEP’s web-based geographic tool, displays information about waterbodies and applicable nutrient criteria throughout Florida.

View NNC Tracker

NSILT logo; three dimensional view of aquifer

NITROGEN SOURCE INVENTORY AND LOADING TOOL

The Nitrogen Source Inventory and Loading Tool allows an exploration of the relative contribution of nitrogen from various sources, and considers ecological processes that influence the transformation of nitrogen containing compounds as they move from the land surface to the Upper Floridan Aquifer, the primary source of water emanating as spring discharge.

Explore NSILT

screenshot of SSO map

Wastewater Incident Reporting

Wastewater utilities and owners of satellite collection systems are required to report spills which are of 1,000 gallons or greater, or which may threaten the environment or public health to DEP through a tollfree, 24-hour hotline known as the State Watch Office. Spills may also be reported to DEP using the Public Notice of Pollution Portal.

The public is also encouraged to report any spills or suspected wastewater incidents to the State Watch Office, to their local DEP emergency response office or local delegated program.

State Watch Office - 1-800-320-0519

Learn More  Pollution Notices

FWRMC monitoring a surface water using a handheld probe

FLORIDA WATER RESOURCES MONITORING COUNCIL

The Florida Water Resources Monitoring Council promotes information sharing among stakeholders that participate in monitoring and management of marine and coastal waters, fresh surface waters and groundwater in Florida.

FWRMC Resources