Steps you can take to be part of the solution to prevent algae blooms

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:
Steps to keep fertilizer and other harmful materials out of the water. Photo via WINK News

The water quality crisis in Southwest Florida feels overwhelming if you are one of the many affected by the toxic air and dead fish smells in the water and throughout the canals.

WINK News along with our partners at Gulfshore Life are helping you be part of the solution to prevent the major outbreak like we experienced in the past.

Solving algae and red tide issues comes down to preventing excess nitrogen and phosphorous in the water, according to James Evans, Director of Natural Resources at the Department of Sanibel. “Our goal is to really reduce the excess nitrogen and phosphorous from entering the water body, so that it doesn’t cause algae blooms.”

Evans has made a career out out of studying nitrogen and phosphorous, but now his important task is to eliminate it.

He says one step that can be taken is to halt the use of fertilizer.

“If people can skip the fertilizer that’s the best practice,” Evans said.

On Sanibel, where Evans works, phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer are banned from July 1 through Sept. 30.

Outside that time period you’re only allowed to have fertilizer with no more than 20 percent nitrogen and at least 50-percent must be slow release and 2 percent phosphorus.

Sanibel also recommends homeowners plant native plants to cut down on fertilizer use. A list of native plants can be found HERE.

Native plants have adapted to the extreme conditions in Florida and they really do a great of job of growing without fertilizer.

If you are using fertilizer, you need to have a buffer zone between your landscaping and any pond or canal.

MORE: Southwest Florida Water Crisis

Another source of nutrient pollution is reused water for irrigation.

“The easiest way to tell if you’re on reuse water is to look for the purple pipes,” Evans said.

If you do reuse water, point your sprinklers away from open water. You can also use a¬†calculator on the city’s website¬†that tells you how much nitrogen and phosphorous is in reuse water, so you can deduct that from your fertilizer.

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