What you can do to reduce water pollution

The historical, environmental, economic and recreational qualities of Indian River Lagoon combine to make it one of the most unique and truly beautiful rivers in America. But the river's ecosystem is fragile, and the delicate balance has been upset by human activity--not just industry or developers, but you and me.

We cause the damage very naively, just through our normal behavior's-- fertilizing our lawns, flushing our toilets, washing our laundry, driving our cars. Yet the greatest threat to the Indian River Lagoon is indifference is the belief that someone else will fix the problems.

Just as everyone is responsible for the river's decline, it will take everyone's participation to bring the Indian River Lagoon into good health, and the work needs to start now.  It's you Lagoon. Enjoy the quality of life it brings to central Florida. Respect it. Get to know it. Learn how to preserve it. The changes we make together can be meaningful and enduring.

Fertilize wisely

Nitrogen pollution comes from many sources, including from the fertilizers used on lawns and in landscaping. This nitrate-rich water makes its way to surface waters as runoff during rainfall or over-irrigation, or it may drain slowly from the soil over time.

When fertilizing, using the correct amount of fertilizer can reduce the amount of pollutants reaching FWCD canals, save water and money, and result in a healthier landscape. Over fertilizing can aggravate pest problems, stimulate excessive plant growth, and demand frequent irrigation.

Fertilizers should be used only when specific nutrient deficiency systems are evident.

The best fertilizers for healthy landscapes and the environment are those that contain a high percentage of flow release forms of nitrogen. Slow-release stay in the soil to supply nutrients to plant on a gradual basis, over a longer period of time. The product label will say organic, slow-release or controlled release nitrogen, sulfur-coated, IBDU (15N-isobutylidene divrea), or resin coated.

Fertilize only during the growing season, which can vary depending on where you live in Florida. Allow a month between autumn application and the first freezing temperatures, which will make new growth less vulnerable to frost. Use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides only when needed, and apply them responsibility, following the label's direction. Apply only on affected areas. Consider organic or nontoxic solutions.

Maintain your septic systems

With ordinary use, septic tanks should be cleaned out every three to five years. Failure to do so may result in solids or greases overflowing into the drain field, which may become clogged and stop functioning. If this happens, the tank must be pumped out and the drain field also may need to be replaced.


Know the location and the capacity of your septic tank system and have a licensed contractor inspect the tank at least every three years. Keep records of inspections, pumping activity, repairs and other work.

Do not perform all machine washing in one day- one large laundry load can use up to 60 gallons of water and overwhelm the whole septic system with excess waste water.

Commercial septic tanks additives do not eliminate the need for periodic clean out by a permitted septic tank cleaning company.

Never plant trees or shrubbery within 30 feet of the drain field. Instead, grow grass or small plants above the septic system to hold the drain field in place. Water wise landscaping plants can help control excess runoff.
Cooking oils and grease should never be washed down the sink drain, because the type of microorganisms found in septic tanks and drain fields do not survive or function well in solidified grease.

Minimize harm from stormwater runoff

You may not have waterfront property, but the rain that runs off your roof, lawn and driveway can eventually end up in the nearest water body by flowing over land and into storm drains.

A common misconception is that storm drains lead to a treatment plant. Rather, storm drains are direct conduits to stormwater ponds or natural waterways. It is important to never dump or place anything down the storm drain inlet except for rainwater.

Here are some tips to minimize the harm of stormwater runoff leaving your home or workplace:
Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. Unwise or excessive use of chemicals can harm people, pets beneficial organisms and the environment. Use nontoxic alternatives whenever possible, and pull weeds by hand.

Avoid dumping waste oil, chemicals or yard trash into canals, ponds, inlets or storm drains.

Clean up after your pet to prevent animal waste from washing into waterways.

Sweep up yard debris rather than hosing down areas. If trash, grass clippings, branches or little clog the drains, they can block flow and create localized flooding problems.

Compost or recycle yard waste and lawn clippings when possible. Depositing lawn clippings in canals water bodies and storm drains can increase oxygen demand in the water, which can significantly harm fish populations and damage sea grass beds. vital habitat for animals and aquatic organisms.

Conserve water and reduce wastewater discharges

You may not realize that the water you use in your home--in sinks, showers, toilets, clothes washers, dishwashers and more-may ultimately be discharges into the Lagoon as treated waste water.

This waste water-partially treated sewage- is the largest contributor of nutrient pollution to the Lagoon. And removing it from the Lagoon is among the District's highest priorities.

Governments and utilities are working together to remove waste water from the Lagoon and instead, pipe it  as reclaimed water to serve other purposes such as irrigation. It is possible for reclaimed water to contain enough nutrient to supply a large portion of a landscape's fertilizer requirement.

What you can do

You can do your part by practicing water conservation indoors. By doing so, you are reducing the volume of waste water that is sent to the Lagoon for disposal, which helps to improve the river's health.

You can further do your part by not dumping dead animals; fish or fowl  (examples: goats, hogs, gators without tails, frog remains and deceased family pets) into the canal system. The decaying carcass raises the fecal coli-form levels. 
The canals are tested quarterly.