Improving Water Quality at Wildflower Preserve
In July 2011, Lemon Bay Conservancy volunteers at Wildflower Preserve began testing six freshwater ponds and three locations in Lemon Creek to understand the quality of the water flowing out from the old golf course into Lemon Bay. Our volunteers adopted water sampling protocols designed by the University of Florida Lakewatch program and the data we collect is added to over 600 sampling locations around Florida where water quality is being assessed via standard methods.
Monthly, since that 2011 start, our dedicated volunteers have collected samples that the Lakewatch staff analyze for levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and chlorophyll. The team also records water clarity and water depth at each sampling location.
Early on, we discovered that much of our water was “hypereuthrophic”, containing high levels of nutrients. Not a surprising finding, perhaps, given that golf courses use nutrients to promote grass growth. We also learned that nutrient levels in some ponds were higher than in others, with the highest levels in the pond we named “Duckweed”. Before LBC purchased Wildflower, Duckweed Pond was receiving treated sewage effluent from a nearby sewage treatment facility and the green covering of duckweed plants on the pond surface reflected the very high nutrient levels at that location.
Working with a grant from the CHNEP, our volunteers took steps to improve pond conditions with techniques like floating plant islands that absorb nutrients into the plant roots and the addition of a barrier to reduce the flow of water from Duckweed Pond to other ponds downstream. Over the years, the steps we’ve taken have led to measurable reductions in the nutrient levels at Wildflower.
But, to make the biggest improvements in preserve water quality, we need to recontour and expand the ponds with sloping sides that will allow us to add aquatic plants around the pond edges to filter out nutrients as the water moves east to west through the pond system and eventually into Lemon Bay. Those wetland changes are a big part of the $1.2 million habitat restoration project currently underway at Wildlflower Preserve with major grant funding support from SWFWMD and NOAA.
Since our founding in 1971, Lemon Bay Conservancy has been working to protect and improve our incredible local environment. Initiatives to protect water quality are an important ongoing piece of our efforts. Our other current water quality programs include brochures and seminars focused on steps each of us as individuals can take to improve water quality and innovative projects to expand oyster and “mini-reef” aquatic habitats in Lemon Bay.