ORLANDO, Fla. - Water is one of Florida's greatest resources to tourists and residents alike, so it's important that those who wish to enjoy it work to keep it clean.
Recently, the state's waterways have been infiltrated by red tide and blue-green algae. You've likely seen pictures of the devastating effects of both conditions, including tons of dead fish washed up on shorelines and rivers and lakes polluted with what appears to be slime-like sludge.
While both forms of algae are simultaneously taking their toll on Florida's ecosystems, it should be noted that red tide and blue-green algae blooms are different from one another and, therefore, cause different effects. That also means they must be treated differently.
Below is a list of ways you can do your part in fighting the conditions while working to protect the Sunshine State's waterways.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offered tips on how to help respond to the red tide bloom, which is naturally occurring, and reporting fish kills was at the top of their list. Fish kills can be reported to the FWC's official Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or online by filling out a report at Public.MyFWC.com.
Reporting the condition of other wildlife is another way to help with the response to the red tide bloom. Anyone who notices sick, injured or dead marine mammals or sea turtles should notify the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline by calling 888-404-3922 or dialing #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone. Reports can also be made online at MyFWC.com/Contact/Wildlife-Alert. According to the FWC, the algae can also affect bird species. To report a bird illness or death, visit Legacy.MyFWC.com/bird. Anyone who notices a sick, injured or dead sawfish should report the incident to FWC officials by calling 1-844-472-9347 or emailing Sawfish@MyFWC.com.
In order to increase the coverage of red tide samples, the FWC is asking for volunteers to do their part by collecting samples in the following counties:
• Indian River
• Palm Beach
• St Lucie
Anyone interested in volunteering in the above counties should email rtomp_coordinator@MyFWC.com.
Florida counties not listed above currently have enough volunteers collecting samples, but could need more in the future.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Phytoplankton Monitoring Network also needs volunteers to help monitor coastal or freshwater environments for potentially harmful blooms. Anyone can volunteer, regardless of their scientific experience, as long as they can commit to sampling once every two weeks for one year and have access to a basic light microscope. Click here for more information on how to sign up.
Reducing the amount of water you use is another way you can do your part in protecting the precious natural resource, especially during Florida's rainy season.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, long periods of rain or heavy downpours can saturate the ground, cause stormwater retention ponds to overflow and lead to the flooding of yards and streets -- all things that can cause sanitary sewer systems to overflow and spill into the environment.
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The following tips, courtesy of the FDEP, are easy ways you can help conserve water and avoid an overflow by putting less water into our sewer systems:
- Check faucets and pipes for leaks. A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day; larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.
- Use your dishwasher and washing machine only for full loads. When possible, avoid washing during heavy downpours.
- Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units. The units require a lot of water to operate properly and also add to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to maintenance problems. Instead of using a garbage disposal, compost kitchen scraps and use the nutrient-rich compost to enhance yard or garden soil.
- Add mulch to reduce evaporation. Mulching reduces water needed in a garden by as much as 50 percent. It also has the added benefit of preventing weed growth, deterring pests, stabilizing soil temperature and providing nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
- Harvest rain to water flower beds, herb gardens and potted plants. Rain is free and beneficial for plants because it does not contain hard minerals.
- Choose native plants that are adapted to the area because they need less water.
- Check hose and sprinkler connections for leaks – a drop wasted each second can add up to a couple of gallons each day.
- On slopes, plant native species that will retain water and help reduce runoff.
- Irrigate your lawn with reclaimed water. To find out if reclaimed water is available in your neighborhood, contact your utility company.
- Do not water the lawn if it is raining.
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