Pollution and deterioration of Florida’s waters is not just a Brevard County issue. We frequently hear about algal blooms on the West Coast. And, sadly, fish and manatees are dying there too.

What are other communities doing? Are they giving up or making progress?

Well, Tampa for one, is making real progress.

Seagrass is one indicator of special interest to us. In the 1950s, Tampa Bay was covered by some 40,000 acres of seagrass meadows. By 1982, that had declined to 21,650 acres.

Today, the Bay is back up to more than 34,000 acres and the community has set the long-term goal of maintaining at least 40,000 acres. Fish variety data also have improved.

Impressive! And the progress was spurred by improvements in Tampa Bay’s water quality, especially nitrogen reduction. Through efforts by the EPA, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) and a consortium of businesses and communities dedicated to nitrogen reduction, nitrogen loadings have been reduced by some 77 tons per year. This took a combined community investment of more than $2.5 billion.

These pollution control efforts have resulted in improved water quality throughout the Bay. In 1982, water quality across Tampa Bay was red alert. Most areas of Tampa Bay began meeting water quality standards in 2005 and are continuing to do so. 

It is notable that during this time Tampa Bay’s population increased from 1.4 million in 1980 to 3.2 million today.

There are still issues in the Bay. One segment, Old Tampa Bay, has experienced recurring summertime algae blooms and has struggled to maintain seagrass. Also, events like the emergency discharge of nitrogen-rich water from the Piney Point phosphate processing facility last March can cause challenges.

The TBEP and community have been working together for more than 30 years, since 1991, and have demonstrated that massive problems like the destruction of seagrass in a rapidly growing community can be largely overcome through persistence, sound plans, sustained investment and cooperation.

Tampa Bay is succeeding: We can too! 

For more, check out HelpTheLagoon.org