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Welcome to the Be Floridian Now Newsletter!

This newsletter is brought to you by the East Coast partnership that strives to make changing your residential landscape a fun and rewarding endeavor.  This quarterly newsletter provides resources and content to Floridify your yard and decrease the landscape pollution that harms water quality. 

Fly into Fall like a Floridian!
Pelicans flying over a sunset
Farewell -Photo Credit Jill Bazeley

Florida-Friendly Fall Lawn Tips

 
Even though lawn fertilizer restrictions are lifting after September 30th, with the exception of Stuart, this doesn't mean that you should stop using Florida Friendly practices! Here are 5 tips from our parent group Be Floridian, to help you Garden Like a Floridian this Fall.

1. If you must fertilize, make sure the nitrogen content is at least 50% slow release, or better yet, go for even greater slow release! This means that you will save money and time by having to fertilize less. Experts say you only need two applications at most, so if you fertilize in October, then you won't need to fertilize again until the spring.

2. If you have a lawn-care company, ask them to only fertilize twice a year and to use a product that has at least 50% slow release. Not only does this help you and your lawn care service stay in compliance with local ordinances, but it also helps maintain your property values! Fish kills and dead zones from fertilizer-fed algae aren’t just depressing to deal with; they also depress real estate prices.

3. Fertilizer will not make concrete grow. OK, so you knew that. But when fertilizer is left on a driveway, sidewalk or other hard surface, it has just one place to go — down the street and into the nearest lake or bay. Sweeping up the spills protects fishing, boating and other water fun.

4. Even though winter weather seems like a legend in this September heat, the season will change and you need to get your plants ready. When buying new plants, check to see if they can tolerate our winter temperatures. Plant any cold-sensitive plants in the warmest parts of your yard and add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to hold in heat. Additionally, hold off on pruning till spring; even in early fall it can get too chilly at night for newly trimmed plants.

5. Once we enter the dry season, help your lawn stay healthy by adding some potassium. This will help your lawn absorb water, meaning that you can cut your water bill!
Time to Change the Way We Go! Cartoon man next to a toilet
Springsheds 
 
Did you know that what you put on—or in—the ground can end up in our water, even if you don’t live near an ocean, lake, or spring? Let’s take a moment to explore how this happens.

A watershed is an area of land that channels rain into a basin, like a lake. Watersheds vary in size, and can range from a relatively small area of land, to large swaths of terrain. Summer rains can wash fertilizer or other pollutants off our lawns, sidewalks, and streets, and carry it into ditches and storm drains, which often lead to surface waters within the watershed.

In Florida, we also have many springsheds. A springshed is an area of land that drains to a spring.
Eight people kayaking at Blue Springs
Kayaking at Blue Springs
Volusia County Springsheds 

The Blue Spring Springshed in Volusia County covers an area of 130 square miles encompassing parts of DeLand, Orange City, DeBary, Deltona, Lake Helen and unincorporated Volusia County. When Volusia County first developed, septic tanks were the only option for waste disposal. At low densities, these traditional septic systems did not have a profound effect on our groundwater and springs. However, now with over 41,000 septic tanks currently in use in the Blue Spring springshed, the nitrogen is polluting our springs and leaching into the groundwater – our drinking water source. 

Environmental scientists and managers from Volusia County and partner cities in West Volusia are working on solutions to protect our home. Current projects include upgrading and expanding capacity at the Southwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility—a facility designed to help reduce nutrient levels in Blue Spring—increasing access to sewer lines in areas that most impact water quality in the Blue Spring springshed, and advocating to government agencies on behalf of residents, to secure funding to help pay for costs of sewer line infrastructure. 

Volusia County contracted a research and marketing firm, Uppercase, Inc., on a three-year project to conduct social research with residents in West Volusia and create a marketing campaign to help raise awareness about sources of pollution in the springshed. The resulting campaign, “Time to Change the Way We Go” focuses on identifying septic tanks as the top contributor of pollution in Volusia Blue Spring and clarifying that even properly functioning septic systems contribute to the problem. 

In a 2019 survey conducted by Uppercase, 42% of West Volusia residents surveyed believed that their septic system had nothing to do with water quality in the area. Additionally, 53% indicated that a properly functioning septic system will not contribute to groundwater pollution. However, traditional septic systems are designed to protect human health, not reduce nutrient pollution. Properly functioning septic tanks slowly release wastewater containing nutrients to a drain field. When these septic systems are in high densities or high quantities - like we have in areas of Volusia County - these nutrients impact our springs. 
ABOUT VOLUSIA BLUE SPRING
  • Florida has more first magnitude springs than any other state in the US. 
  • Volusia Blue Spring is the largest first magnitude spring on the St. Johns River and discharges an average of 102 million gallons of water each day.
  • The nutrient pollution percentages are determined through the Basin Management Action Plan process. There are a number of impaired surface and groundwater bodies in the State of Florida; visit Florida Department of Environmental Protection to see the Basin Management Action Plans.
What can You Do?
 
Residents can reduce their nutrient impact by upgrading to a nutrient-reducing septic system, making amendments to the septic drain field, or by hooking up to sewer where it is available. 

While these actions are not necessarily things that can be done immediately, something residents can do right away is Be Floridian Now by reducing or omitting the use of lawn fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus. During the summer rainy season—June 1 through September 30—skip the fertilizer. Then, if you must fertilize, think, “Twice is Nice,” and use at least 50% slow-release fertilizer once in the spring, and once in the fall. For more information about how to fertilize like a Floridian to reduce your contribution to nutrient pollution, visit BeFloridianNow.org

Get the facts about septic tanks, waste management infrastructure projects in Volusia County, and the “Time to Change the Way We Go” campaign at GreenVolusia.org.
Two people sampling groundwater at an artisanal well
Sampling site for groundwater at artesian well.
Groundbreaking Groundwater Research
 
In Brevard County, the Marine Resources Council and Applied Ecology, Inc. completed a two-year, legislatively funded groundwater wastewater study to help Brevard County Natural Resources Department prioritize areas for wastewater improvements.

The study involved monthly sampling of 45 groundwater wells that were strategically placed on properties near the Indian River Lagoon that were natural areas, on septic systems, had municipal sewer, or were on sewer and also received reclaimed wastewater for irrigation. Samples from the wells are sent to the lab for nutrient, bacteria, and isotope analysis.

There were many interesting results of this study and the associated modeling efforts. One unexpected finding was that communities receiving reclaimed irrigation water are just as polluting as septic communities.

This means a couple of things:
  1. If you have reclaimed irrigation water in Brevard County, you certainly do NOT need to fertilize! There is plenty of fertilizer in the water already, so you can save your money and time.
  2. It doesn’t make sense to hook homes with septic tanks up to the sanitary sewer if the municipality is going to send the discharge water back out for irrigation. There will be no reduction in nitrogen in groundwater if this is the case.
  3. These groundwater nitrogen (TN) concentrations are very high! There is a lot of nitrogen entering the lagoon though groundwater!
Let's Talk about Algae!
Algae File Image: SJRWMD
Living in Florida, we have all probably seen or heard of algae inhabiting our water ways. Although some algae can be beneficial by producing a large amount of the world’s oxygen, others can have negative impacts on water quality and cause events such as fish kills and sea grass die offs. Algal blooms that have negative impacts on our waterways are called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB). While algae are not plants, they are similar in that they photosynthesize just like plants do. Like many plants, algae can grow and multiply exponentially when exposed to nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus often found in fertilizer. 

Are you wondering how fertilizer makes its way into our waterways?
 
Over-fertilizing lawns or using fertilizer too close to the water’s edge may be the culprit. When it rains (or lawns are overwatered), runoff from lawns containing nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer makes its way down the street and into a storm drain that could lead directly to the closest water body. You can protect our water ways right from your back yard! Pay close attention to your City or County guidelines relating to fertilizing during different times of the year. Many Cities and Counties in East Central Florida have banned the use of certain fertilizers during the rainy season (June-September) to prevent fertilizer rich runoff from flowing into storm drains.
Algal Blooms you might see in the Indian River Lagoon Watershed
Blue Green "Algae" Blooms
Brown Algae Blooms
Bioluminescent Blooms
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