Protecting and monitoring water quality for health ecosystems is a top priority for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which manages Florida’s 42 aquatic preserves. Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves staff routinely monitors its living waters to ensure they will always be home for bird rookeries, fish nurseries, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests. Charlotte Harbor is Florida’s second largest estuary, where fresh and saltwater combine to form a complex web of ecosystems. The Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network (CHEVWQMN) is a group of volunteers who help protect these waters by collecting water quality data on a monthly basis.
The estuaries within the volunteer monitoring network include: Charlotte Harbor, Gasparilla Sound, Cape Haze, Lemon Bay, Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass, San Carlos Bay, and Estero Bay. Volunteers monitor and collect water samples in assigned locations to check for turbidity, color, nutrients, chlorophyll and bacteria. Volunteers also sample for red tide, which is overseen by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The volunteer water quality monitoring data is used in a variety of ways, including: Identifying aquatic preserve management needs, making local recreational use decisions, making local stormwater, wastewater and land use decisions, supplementing regional water management district studies, supporting annual state water quality reports, identifying specific problem areas that need further scientific management or enforcement investigation and actions.
Sampling allows DEP’s aquatic preserve managers to focus on areas of interest or concern. If you are interested in more information about algal blooms in Florida, visit DEP’s algal bloom dashboard at ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov. Additionally, if you would like to become part of the Lemon Bay Conservancy water monitoring team please contact us at 941-830-8922 and we will provide you with all the necessary training in order to place you on one of our teams.