Curbing Nutrient Runoff from Human Sources Will Likely Help Abate Red Tide

Dead fish laying on the beach - effects of Red Tide#663CoastalYomper… While we’ve heard a lot of bad news lately about the resurgence of red tide off the Southwest Florida coast, the good news is that there is a lot we can do as individuals and as a community to improve water quality, for both our inland and coastal waterways.

Red Tide has been present off the Southwest Florida coast for centuries, but analysis of blooms, their size, duration and location has shown that Florida red tide has become more intense and frequent in the past half century, likely owing to nutrient pollution from human activity on land.

According to that research: “While red tides along Florida’s west coast are a natural phenomenon that has occurred for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the data show an increase in the size, intensity, and duration of the red tide blooms over the past 50 years. While many factors play a role in a harmful algal bloom’s development, it is thought that land-based nutrient runoff contributes significantly to harmful algal bloom development and its recent increase.”

Irrigation of farmland to ensure the quality of the cropEven scientists who disagree about the origin of red tide being linked to nutrient pollution, almost all agree that once a bloom is established, it can feed off nutrient pollution from human activities.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, farmers, landscapers and home gardeners buy millions of tons of fertilizer each year. And while that fertilizer keeps their landscaping green, the impact on local waterways can be grave. The type of fertilizer, where and how it is applied has enormous impact on inland and coastal waters. That’s in addition to the runoff from buildings, roads and other paved areas and even the runoff from local residents washing cars.

That’s where you come in and the reason there is a great deal of hope on this front. Changes in how we garden and tend our landscaping to how often we wash our cars and a host of other human activities can contribute to water quality — good and bad.

The silhouette of a heron in the water in Florida.The most important component of any watershed approach to protecting water quality is the understanding that what goes into the runoff goes into streams, rivers, retention ponds and to a great degree our bays and the Gulf of Mexico.

For that reason, for more than a decade, we at Allard PPC have worked with Sarasota County’s NEST — Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team — program that helps homeowners associations adopt better water practices and shows them their role in water quality decline or improvement.

The county program had such a positive impact on the environment and general quality of life here that it contributed to the county being named and All American City by the National Civic League.

thumbnailRoss Allard, founder and owner of Allard PPC, has a keen interest in water quality and says despite improvements, it’s still important to continue best practices and make sure they spread to other neighborhoods and counties. Noting that it wasn’t that long ago that Sarasota County and its coastal waters suffered enormously during a yearlong red tide outbreak.

“We don’t want to get in the same pickle we did before if we don’t address these issues,” he said.

Other communities have done even more, a case in point being Celebration in central Florida that has some of the most advance policies to keep almost all nutrient pollution from its local waterways and waters farther downstream. The same holds true for Disney properties.

resized dakinClearly, Sarasota is headed in the right direction when it comes to abating nutrient runoff, and the key to a healthy future for the county is continued vigilance in this area.

At Allard PPC, we are serious about looking beyond the bottom line and being active in our community to improve environmental awareness and education. We believe that this approach in integral to not only our success as a company but also the success of our clients. Please visit our blog for articles on environmental stewardship, sustainable practices and wise water use.

Helpful Links:


Sarasota County Water Atlas

Sarasota an All American City

The All American City Award

Disney Properties


Promoting Sustainability

Environmental Stewardship — Promoting Businesses that are Promoting Sustainability and FarmEd a Working Relationship Between Marketing and Conservation

Wise Water Use

Best Practices

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