An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Orange County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Blue-Green Algae Task Force meets for first time since November

FORT MYERS – The Blue-Green Algae Task Force met Thursday for the first time since November to discuss innovative technologies being used around the state to combat the toxic blooms.

State officials showed the scientist-led task force several blue-green algae fighting projects that have been launched around the state already, many through the Department of Environmental Protection grant funding.

Although green streaks lined the surface of the Caloosahatchee by the Franklin Lock Thursday, BGA Task Force member and Florida Gulf Coast University scientist Dr. Mike Parsons said the algae situation has been better in southwest Florida than they feared this year so far.

“Everybody’s trying to prepare though, so if and when we do get larger blooms, what are some of the treatments we can do?” Parsons said. “[The innovative technologies] won’t 100% get rid of it, but if you can knock it back a lot, that’ll be very helpful.”

Want to be on Flip My Florida Yard?

FMFY logo

The deadline to apply is July 15th.

The Flip My Florida Yard television show is looking for yards to flip and lives to change! In order to be considered for the show, you must complete an online survey, provide photographs, and send the producers a submission video.

If you are selected, the Flip My Florida Yard team will work with you to determine how to flip your yard, develop a landscape design, and bring it to life!

This may mean replacing plant beds, installing irrigation systems, and/or rethinking your current maintenance practices.

The premise of the show is that if we all do a little, it adds up to a lot. Flip My Florida Yard shows Floridians how they can make small (and big) changes in their own backyards that help to save our water supply and protect our wildlife.

Depending on the size and needs of your landscape, only a portion may be flipped. Before completing the survey, please be aware that you will be asked to provide photographs and video of your yard. If selected, this will help the producers and landscapers decide which portion(s) of your yard to flip.

Complete details and contest rules are at the link below.

Herbicide Application on Lake Tilden, 6/24

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/24/2021.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage floating plants in the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:
•  DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING WATER FOR 1 DAY.
•  DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application on Lake Sheen, 6/23

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/23/20.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Hydrilla and emergent vegetation in the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Researchers working on new test to detect cyanobacteria in humans

Blue-green algae play a role in human health and we see what it does to our water. A diagnostic test at a doctor’s office may still be far off but researchers are working on developing a test to detect cyanobacteria in humans.

Coughing, headaches and rashes can all impact people after they’ve been exposed to toxic algal blooms.

Dr. Virginia Roberts is an epidemiologist with the CDC and says that proving that algae is the source of these symptoms is another story.

“We saw that very few people and animals were getting some sort of diagnostic testing conducted,” said Dr. Roberts. “There are big limitations with being able to go to a doctor and get tested.”

“It is really an important area – the idea of developing those tests – making sure that they work well, and getting them out so that public health laboratories and clinicians and others will eventually have more access to that kind of testing,” Dr. Roberts said.

Long-awaited Wekiwa Springs septic-to-sewer conversion begins with ceremony

With a bulldozer parked behind them, state and local leaders Friday hailed the beginning of a massive sewer project estimated to cost $123 million but considered invaluable to the future health of the Wekiva River and its ecologically vital springs.

The earth-movers were props.

It will be weeks before the machines start chewing into the ground in and around Sweetwater West, a gated neighborhood east of Apopka. The aim is to lay sewer lines to take over the job of septic tanks blamed for leaking contaminating nitrates into the springs.

“The upcoming construction will be messy and inconvenient,” said Commissioner Christine Moore, who applauded residents in neighborhoods who agreed to the conversion at personal expense to help the springs. “But in about a year and a half, it’ll be behind us; we’ll have our home values protected and we’re going to have done our part to save this beautiful spring.”

Herbicide Application on Lake Wauseon Bay, 6/22

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/22/2021.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage hydrilla in the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application on Lake Isleworth, 6/22

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/22/2021. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Hygrophila at the Keene's Point boat ramp. WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

These restrictions apply ONLY to the area indicated in red in the image here below:

Isleworth area

U.S. House Rep seeks EPA investigation of Little Wekiva River silting

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate what has caused the Little Wekiva River to badly silt up in Seminole County.

Murphy sent a letter Tuesday to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. She requests a federal inquiry similar to a state probe being triggered by a bill pushed through the Legislature this spring by Republican state Sen. Jason Brodeur and Republican state Rep. Keith Truenow. Their effort, which wound up getting approval in Truenow’s HB 727, calls for various state agencies to study the river’s problems.

Now a parallel probe is being sought from federal investigators.

“I respectfully request that the Environmental Protection Agency investigate the surrounding area for potential Clean Water Act violations,” Murphy submitted to Regan.

The Little Wekiva River and its sister waterway the Wekiva River run through western Seminole and Orange counties. Naturalists and kayakers flock to them. The rivers were designated national Wild and Scenic Rivers. They also receive special state protection designated under Florida’s Wekiva Aquatic Preserve.

Yet in the past couple of years, sediments have filled a stretch of the Little Wekiva north of State Road 434. Sediment and invasive plants choke the riverbed. Stretches once four feet deep are reduced to puddles. Blocked runoff swamps surrounding forest. Spreading water threatens nearby homes with flooding.

Proposed Florida constitutional amendment aims to give waterways legal rights

Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways under the amendment.

Florida environmentalists have begun collecting signatures to introduce an amendment to the state's constitution that would recognize a person's legal right to clean water.

The amendment aims to do this by recognizing a waterway's legal right to "exist, flow, be free from pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem." Meaning, Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways, according to the proposed amendment.

If the waterway's rights were violated, then the amendment requires the penalty to be paying whatever the cost is to restore the water to its "pre-damaged state."

The petition would need to reach nearly 900,000 signatures by February 1, 2022, in order to be placed on Florida's ballots.

Biden administration initiates legal action to repeal WOTUS

Clean-water safeguards ended by Trump would be restored

The Biden administration began legal action Wednesday to repeal a Trump-era rule that ended federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, leaving them more vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms.

The rule — sometimes referred to as “waters of the United States” or WOTUS — narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. It was one of hundreds of rollbacks of environmental and public health regulations under former President Donald Trump, who said the rules imposed unnecessary burdens on business.

The Trump-era rule, finalized last year, was long sought by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others who complained about federal overreach that they said stretched into gullies, creeks and ravines on farmland and other private property.

Environmental groups and public-health advocates said the rollback approved under Trump would allow businesses to dump pollutants into unprotected waterways and fill in some wetlands, threatening public water supplies downstream and harming wildlife and habitat.

The water rule has been a point of contention for decades. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan has pledged to issue a new rule that protects water quality while not overly burdening small farmers.,

SJRWMD debuts improved water quality data web portal

Up-to-date information now available to public

PALM BAY — Public access to the most up-to-date water quality information in the St. Johns River and the Indian River Lagoon just got better, thanks to a web portal redesign by the St. Johns River Water Management District’s data collection and management team.

“People are interested in the health of our waterways, particularly the Indian River Lagoon,” said Christine Mundy, chief of the District’s Bureau of Water Resource Information. “The upgraded web portal increases our transparency as a public agency and improves access to data we collect at our continuous water quality monitoring stations in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River.”

Six water monitoring stations in the lagoon and three in the St. Johns River transmit continuous water quality data — including information about chlorophyll, water temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen — which the District uploads and shares on its new Aquarius WebPortal at secure.sjrwmd.com/aqportal.

A user guide explains how to select station locations and data, display available parameters on a map, view charts of key parameters for related locations in dashboards and explore specific locations and parameters in a data set or chart.

Unlike manually gathered water samples, continuous water quality data provides a constant stream of information during all hours of the day and under a variety of weather conditions, offering a more complete picture.

“The data we collect can serve as indicators when algal bloom conditions are developing,” Mundy said. “The new portal also gives the public the same information we use in making long-term management decisions about our waterways.”

SJRWMD to share innovative algal bloom treatment contract with water managers, FDEP

PALATKA – At Gov. Ron DeSantis’s direction to deploy innovative technology to actively assess and address critical blue-green algal conditions, the St. Johns River Water Management District is now offering other Florida water management districts and the State of Florida access to a proprietary algicide treatment to fight cyanobacterial, or blue-green algae, blooms.

In support of Gov. DeSantis’ Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment plan (Executive Order 19-12) to protect Florida’s environment and with funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the District entered into an agreement with BlueGreen U.S. Water Technologies (BGWT) in early 2020 to evaluate the potential of its Lake Guard Oxy Technology, a proprietary innovative product that selectively targets cyanobacteria, in preventing and/or controlling algal bloom formation in Lake Minneola.

“Our agreement with BGWT was amended in October 2020 to allow FDEP to respond to emergency conditions in the South Florida Water Management District that required water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “The Board has now ensured that each of our partner water management districts and FDEP can take rapid actions by accessing this contract without delay when critical harmful algal bloom (HAB) conditions are present.”

The update allows funding treatments up to $5 million from a variety of funding sources should potential bloom conditions occur across Florida.

The District recently completed the final treatment application of a six-month pilot project to test BGWT’s innovative treatment to suppress and control cyanobacterial blooms at Lake Minneola in Lake County.

An overabundance of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can increasingly be found in Florida’s waterways, including its rivers. Potentially HABs also can result in human health advisories and closures of recreational areas by local health departments, harm fish and wildlife, as well as causing local and regional economic impacts.

Between November 2020 and May 2021, using a combination of collected field data, water samples to guide application of the hydrogen peroxide-based product, the BGWT pilot project identified algal-prone areas in Lake Minneola and then deployed its technology in strategic locations to reduce current or forming cyanobacterial blooms. During the pilot study, Lake Minneola received 14 treatments.

With the Lake Mineola pilot treatments now complete, the contract calls for a final report to be issued and a public meeting to be scheduled. Visit the project webpage or follow the District on social media for updates as they are posted.

Poll: Floridians want federal infrastructure plan to deal with climate change

A new poll shows a majority of Floridians think infrastructure improvements in the $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan Democrats are calling the "American Jobs Plan" should include measures to deal with the effects of climate change or natural infrastructure investments to build resiliency and lower the costs of climate-driven extreme weather events.

EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, commissioned Morning Consult to conduct the survey.

Three-quarters of respondents support funding natural infrastructure as part of the American Jobs Plan, with 66% of independents and 53% of Republicans in favor, as well as 75% of coastal respondents and 76% of inland respondents.

UPDATE: Orlando rescinds alert for Lake Lucerne (east lobe)

LIFTED: Lake Alert for Lake Lucerne

The Lake Alert for Lake Lucerne has been lifted. Please resume all normal water activities associated with this lake.


Original Lake Alert, issued 6/7/2021:

To address citizen concerns related to water quality, the Stormwater Section has developed a public information system, "Lake Alert," to provide seasonal and localized warnings (and updates) for City of Orlando lakes. An announcement has been provided below regarding the lake(s) where water quality has been a concern.

Type of water quality concern: Possible elevated E. coli counts due to a sanitary sewer overflow

Location: Near S Orange Avenue and S Lucerne Circle E (East Lobe) – MAP

Cause: Faulty air release valve

City Response: On June 7, 2021, the City was notified by the contractor that a new air release valve (ARV) malfunctioned on a City sewer line and approximately 75–100 gallons of wastewater entered the stormwater system and, ultimately, Lake Lucerne. To keep the wastewater contained, the contractor installed barriers and sand bags on the eastern portion of Lake Lucerne to prevent any impacts downstream. Warning signs were placed along the east lobe of Lake Lucerne.

As a health precaution, the City is advising that irrigation cease and fishermen refrain using this portion of Lake Lucerne until further notice. City Stormwater personnel will collect water samples on a routine basis. Once E. coli counts are acceptable State Water Quality Standards, the Lake Alert Hotline number and the City's Lake Alert website will be updated.

Public Notification – Please continue to call the Lake Alert number, (407) 246-2220, for the most up-to-date information regarding your lake. During weekdays, the City's Lake Alert website, orlando.gov/lakealert will also have the latest information.

For water quality questions, please contact Lisa Lotti, Stormwater Compliance Program Manager, at lisa.lotti@orlando.gov.

Don’t pollute: How to properly dispose of pool and spa wastewater

Do you know how to properly dispose of pool and spa wastewater? If you guessed down a storm drain, you are wrong! Pool and spa wastewater that flows down storm drains ends up in local waterways, affecting water quality, wildlife and even our health.

Why is stormwater pollution so hazardous?

Anything dumped or dropped on the ground or in the gutter can wind up in the nearest body of water. Stormwater pollution results from materials and chemicals (like chlorine from pools) washed into storm drains from streets, gutters, neighborhoods, industrial sites, parking lots and construction sites. This is significant because, unlike the water that goes down a sink or toilet in your home, stormwater is untreated and flows directly to lakes, rivers or even the ocean.

When stormwater is contaminated from pool or spa discharge, it can result in lake advisories being issued recommending residents and their pets stay out of the water due to unhealthy water conditions. Polluted stormwater also carries disease-causing bacteria and viruses that can harm wildlife and humans, which can lead to earaches, sinus problems, diarrhea, fever and rashes.

How do I properly dispose of pool and spa wastewater?

To ensure your pool water is free of contaminants, follow these best management practices (BMP) prior to discharging chemically-treated water:

  1. STOP adding chlorine or salt several days before you plan to discharge pool water onto a grassy area.
  2. Use a test kit to check that chlorine levels are 0.01 mg/L or less. If chlorine level is not zero, wait at least 48 hours and test again. You may use a dechlorinating additive to neutralize chlorine.
  3. Test pool water to be sure pH of discharge water is between 6.5 and 8.0.
  4. Keep discharge water on your property by pumping it slowly onto your yard. Keep discharges out of neighbors’ yards and the street.
  5. Rinse filters over yards and not over driveways or paved areas.
  6. Dispose of all filter media such as diatomaceous earth in the trash.

If a professional pool company drains your pool and uses muriatic acid to pressure wash its interior, they will need to neutralize the wastewater with soda ash or similar product prior to discharging the wastewater. In order to verify the water is safe to discharge, the crew may need to containerize the pool wastewater and follow the BMP’s provided above.

Stormwater systems were originally intended to route rainwater quickly off the streets during a heavy storm. Unfortunately, these systems can carry pollutants such as pesticides, bacteria and chemicals through city streets and straight to water sources.

Restoring urban streams benefits habitat, water quality

Urban stream: Not always an oxymoron

The concept of an “urban stream” might seem like an oxymoron, but restoration efforts across the state are proving that naturalized streams provide significant benefits even in densely populated settings.

For example, at Joe’s Creek in St. Petersburg and Phillipe Creek in Sarasota steep ditches are being restored to recreate meandering streams that improve both habitat and water quality, says John Kiefer, a water resources engineer at Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions.

“The trick is finding sufficient rights-of-way to allow the stream to spread out,” he said. “In many cases, even in urban cores, there is enough room.”

And those narrow ditches with steep sides aren’t just bad for fish and water quality, they’re expensive to maintain, Kiefer said. Rather than allowing rainwater to slowly flow through a more natural system, they cause flashes of freshwater that erode shorelines, move pollution quickly, destroy critical low-salinity habitat and require high levels of maintenance.

Restoring those deep channels to naturalized streams – typically within existing rights of way – allows the systems to process nutrients before they reach larger bodies of water like rivers, lakes and bays. Sediment has time to settle rather than increasing as soil washes away from eroding stream banks. Fish, including juvenile snook that need low-salinity habitat to thrive, respond quickly to the restored streams.

State tightens rules for sewage sludge used as fertilizer but leaves a loophole in place

As damaging algae blooms continue to afflict Florida, the state is taking steps to crack down on and track pollution from biosolids, the waste from sewage plants loaded with nutrients that can fuel blooms.

But the new rules, conservationists warn, continue to ignore a loophole for about 40% of the state’s waste.

At a final hearing last week, state environmental regulators said the new rules address two classes of sludge largely used in agriculture. Class AA, a third class, gets more highly treated to remove pathogens and heavy metals and is classified as a fertilizer not covered by the rules.

But environmentalists warn Class AA still contains phosphorus and nitrogen that feed blooms. Not including the class, they say, creates a gap in tackling worsening blooms that have increasingly fouled Florida waters and fueled saltwater blooms moving inshore.

Full Lake Herbicide Application on Lake Holden, 6/3

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On 6/3/2021 The Environmental Protection Division will be performing a full lake aquatic plant herbicide treatment using Sonar AS (fluridone). This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage hydrilla in the lake. This treatment will be the second of three "bump" or "booster" treatments to maintain the desired concentration of Sonar.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:

  • Do not use treated water to irrigate turf/lawns for 14 days from day of treatment.
  • Do not use treated water to irrigate ornamental plants, hydroponic crops, greenhouse/nursery plants or any food crops until the concentration of Sonar is less than 1ppb. This concentration will be determined by routine water sampling and quantitative testing (FasTEST) by SePRO Corp.
  • There are no restrictions on consumption of treated water for potable use by pets or other animals.
  • There are no restrictions on the use of treated water for recreational purposes, including swimming and fishing.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Hurricane season begins June 1st. Be flood-ready.

June is Flood Control Awareness Month, and your local Water Management District encourages you to learn more about flood control.

Did you know? Flood control is a shared responsibility between Water Management Districts, local governments, drainage districts, homeowner associations and you.

Five things you can do to prepare for the wet season:

  1. Make sure drainage grates, ditches and swales in your neighborhood are clear of debris.
  2. Trim your trees and remove dead vegetation in your yard. DO NOT trim trees if a major storm is in the forecast.
  3. Check your community retention pond or lake for obstructed pipes and contact the appropriate authority for removal (could be your HOA, city, county, or local drainage district). ?
  4. Find out who is responsible for drainage in your community at www.sfwmd.gov/stormupdate.
  5. Make a personal plan for hurricane preparedness. Learn more at www.floridadisaster.org.

For more information, make sure to check out these resources:

Orlando issues alert for Lake Rowena

On May 27, 2021 the City of Orlando tested water samples from Lake Rowena and determined that potentially unsafe concentrations of cylindrospermopsin are present in the lake. As a precaution, we are advising everyone to refrain from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from Lake Rowena until further notice.

For reference, cyanobacteria/blue-green algae are always present in the water, however, not all bacteria have the ability to produce toxins. Toxicity is hard to predict because a single species of algae can have toxic and non-toxic strains. Nothing can be done to treat algae blooms without causing massive fish kills. Due to this, the city will work closely with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to closely monitor Lake Rowena. The city staff will continue to routinely test the lake, but the city's tests will only provide an update on the presence of cylindrospermopsin. The official toxin determination is obtained from FDEP's laboratory data, and until the levels are deemed safe by state standards, the Lake Alert will remain in effect.

Please encourage your neighbors to register for the Lake Alert at orlando.gov/lakealert so they too will get important information about Lake Rowena directly.

In the meantime, as we stated above, the city would advise refraining from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from the lake until further notice.

More information about harmful algae blooms:
www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/harmful-algae-blooms/

If you should have additional questions, please email Lisa Lotti at lisa.lotti@cityoforlando.net.

SJRWMD completes improvements to Lake Apopka Marsh Flow-Way

MAITLAND — The St. Johns River Water Management District has completed a $2.7 million maintenance and improvement project to the nearly 20-year-old Lake Apopka Marsh Flow-Way, a constructed wetland designed to filter algae, suspended sediments and nutrients from the lake’s water.

“The Marsh Flow-Way was one of our earliest restoration projects to improve water quality in Lake Apopka,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Today it is among a dozen projects at Lake Apopka to improve water quality and hasten the recovery of the lake’s submerged aquatic plants, a critical habitat for a sustainable sport fishery.”

The Marsh Flow-Way, located along the northwest shore of Lake Apopka and west of the Apopka-Beauclair Canal, is a recirculating system that filters about 40 percent of the lake’s volume each year. It began operation in November 2003.

To address a reduction in treatment efficiency, the District began maintenance of the Marsh Flow-Way in 2019 to re-level the wetland cells and reopen ditches that promote sheetflow conditions in the cells. The completed project restores the flow-way to its originally constructed condition and reestablishes its ability to efficiently filter suspended sediments and nutrients from Lake Apopka.

The District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection partnered on the project.

The Marsh Flow-Way system covers approximately 760 acres and contains four independent individual wetland cells, in addition to levees, canals and ditches. Prior to construction, the area had been farmed for decades, during which time many feet of organic soils had been lost. Now lake water flows by gravity from west to east through an individual cell before it is collected in the pump basin and lifted back up to the Apopka-Beauclair Canal. Most of the cleaner, treated water returns to Lake Apopka, while the remainder flows downstream toward Lake County Water Authority’s nutrient removal facility (NuRF) and Lake Beauclair.

Since the late 1980s, the District’s work at Lake Apopka has resulted in average lake phosphorus concentration reductions of 64% while water clarity has increased by 55%. The recovery of clearer water and return of sunlight to the lake’s bottom has caused the regrowth of submerged aquatic vegetation, missing for 50 years, and improved critical largemouth bass habitat.

Overly enriched with nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, Lake Apopka has experienced persistent algal blooms for decades. The District’s restoration program works to reduce excessive nutrients in the lake by limiting the amount of nutrients and phosphorus entering the lake and removing accumulated phosphorous and sediments from the lake.

The District’s multipronged approach to Lake Apopka water quality restoration has been “diet and exercise.” “Diet” has focused on reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake. The largest “diet” improvement occurred following the Legislature’s 1996 direction to the District to buy out the farms on the North Shore and restore the historic wetlands.

“Exercise” is removal of phosphorus already in the lake, which has included harvest of gizzard shad from the lake since 1993 and operating the Marsh Flow-Way since 2003 to continuously filter algae, suspended solids and associated nutrients.

Other current projects at Lake Apopka include a pay-for-performance project that uses an innovative technology to remove phosphorus from the lake’s water; multiple projects on the North Shore that improve water and phosphorus management capabilities so that the pumping back to the lake can be reduced; and projects to accelerate the recovery of aquatic plants in the lake.

Lake Apopka, located about 15 miles northwest of Orlando, is the headwaters of the Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes and is the fifth largest lake in Florida.