All Playbook Activities
Upgrading secondary treatment of wastewater to advanced standards is an important and cost-effective strategy for reducing nutrient loading in surface waters.
Appropriate irrigation of landscapes and golf courses with reclaimed water can offset fertilizer application. However, there is little awareness of this benefit, and reclaimed water is typically applied in conjunction with synthetic fertilizer
Spills, emergency discharges, and overflows of treated and untreated sewage cause significant harm to environmental and human health. A proactive and comprehensive approach to preventing unplanned discharges should include inspection, maintenance, replacement, and upgrades of failing sanitary sewer infrastructure.
Notification and access to information about wastewater spills, emergency discharges, and overflows should be timely, standardized, and clearly conveyed so citizens and non-government organizations can evaluate short-term impacts and identify long-term chronic issues for remediation.
Disposal of inappropriate items such as baby wipes and kitchen grease down toilets and drains is a common cause of sewer blockages and overflows. Broken or leaking privately owned sewer lines are also a recurring problem, especially in older areas with aging infrastructure.
Properly sited and maintained conventional septic systems can reduce about 30% to 40% of nitrogen inputs. But all septic systems are not equal in their potential to impair surface water quality.
Understanding and quantifying the life-cycle costs associated with varying nitrate-removal techniques for varying site characteristics will inform local decision-making about existing and future septic system upgrades or conversions.
2.3 Improve knowledge about the location and status of septic systems and prioritize areas for upgrades or conversions
There are conflicting estimates of the number of septic systems in Sarasota County. Clarifying how many septic systems exist, where they are located, and their functional status is fundamental to managing their potential environmental impacts.
2.4 Require periodic inspection and maintenance of septic systems and develop incentive programs to facilitate compliance
Once a septic system is approved in Florida, ongoing inspection or maintenance is not required. Because septic systems can deteriorate over time, legislation that requires periodic inspection and maintenance is essential to ensuring they function properly to protect public health and the environment.
2.5 Deliver targeted education and incentives to improve operation and maintenance of septic systems and encourage upgrades for enhanced nutrient treatment
Regular septic system maintenance is economical compared to other costs of home maintenance and to central sewer fees. Education is needed to encourage proper maintenance of systems, along with incentives to upgrade to newer technologies with improved nutrient reduction.
Biosolids are a valuable byproduct of wastewater treatment that can be landfilled, spread on ranches and fields, or used as a fertilizer. However, the high concentration of nutrients in biosolids may contribute to water quality problems.
Because most biosolids are generated by municipal wastewater treatment facilities, emerging markets for biosolids products may offer economic and environmental benefits to communities.
Biosolids are transported from wastewater treatment facilities to processing and disposal locations around the state, making them a statewide issue.
Understanding the relative contribution of fertilizer to nutrient loading can help prioritize management strategies. Loads may reasonably be estimated through an approach that calculates nutrient budget coefficients based on inputs, uptake, and outflows of nutrients for differing land uses.
Publicly accessible data on the distribution and sale of fertilizer by category and by county is urgently needed to accurately estimate nutrient loading from fertilizer, assess compliance with fertilizer regulations, and track the success of educational efforts.
Sarasota County was among the first in the state to enact local restrictions on fertilizer use to protect water quality. The ordinance could be substantially strengthened by additional provisions to require point-of-sale educational signage on proper fertilizer use to promote greater awareness and compliance.
Lawn care standards imposed in deed-restricted communities can conribute to excess fertilizer use and water pollution. Educating Homeowner Associations about Florida-friendly landscape practices is an efficient way to maximize environmental benefits with limited educational resources.
Sarasota County has almost 6,000 acres of golf courses and athletic fields and a large number of professionally managed residential and commercial lawns and landscapes.
Sarasota County has a strong agricultural heritage founded on cattle ranching and now diversified into multiple commodities, including citrus, sod and ornamental plant nurseries
State law mandates that Sarasota and other large counties recycle 75% of their waste stream. Composting of yard waste contributes to that goal, but food waste is not collected or composted at large-scale.
5.1 Estimate nitrogen loading from atmospheric deposition using multiple monitoring stations within urban areas
Atmospheric deposition, both direct and indirect, is a major source of nitrogen to water and land in Sarasota County. Additional monitoring stations along an urban-to-rural transect,
5.2 Educate the public about the link between air and water quality and choices to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions
There is little awareness among the general public that air quality affects water quality. Improved public understanding of the link between air quality, water quality, and environmental and human health
Robust long-term monitoring and modeling programs that take into account surface and subsurface runoff, stream flows, and organic and inorganic nitrogen concentrations are essential for accurately estimating and managing nutrients in watersheds.
Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) can capture and treat nutrient-laden runoff before discharge to water bodies, some with greater efficiency than others.
Florida’s current stormwater regulations were adopted in the 1980s, and research has shown that conventional stormwater treatments do not meet nutrient removal standards.
Stormwater ponds and canals must be maintained to retain their nutrient removal efficiency, yet are generally lacking in long-term maintenance. Local ordinances would provide a mechanism for outreach, inspection and certification to ensure that stormwater ponds and canals are managed and maintained to maximize nutrient removal.
7.1 Develop and distribute a homeowner guide for home and neighborhood stormwater improvement projects
A comprehensive guide to Best Management Practices for individual homeowners and neighborhoods would provide a “one-stop shop” of tools and information to advance community involvement in reducing nutrient pollution.
7.2 Increase support and capacity for homeowners and HOAs to install stormwater improvement projects with free professional consultations and cost-share grants
Free professional consultations, financial assistance, and replicable demonstrations of successful pond management, Florida-adapted landscaping or green infrastructure elements
7.3 Support recognition or leadership programs for homeowners, HOAs, and businesses adopting, funding, and promoting green infrastructure improvements
Recognition programs can motivate and engage citizens to protect their local waters, and drive community momemtum for positive change.
7.4 Support and promote green infrastructure demonstration projects on publicly accessible properties with interpretive signage and self-guided tours
Visibility and awareness of successful green infrastructure projects can be increased through interpretive signage, demonstration sites, and guided or self-guided tours at publicly accessible places such as parks, government buildings, botanical gardens and museums.
8.1 Restore and enhance wetland and shoreline habitats to increase nutrient uptake and storage by plants
Protecting, restoring and enhancing wetlands and shorelines is among the most cost-effective nutrient reduction and climate mitigation tools available to communities.
8.2 Enhance fish and wildlife populations to increase nutrient uptake and biomass storage by animals
Restoration of fish and wildlife through stocking programs and habitat creation or protection can directly and indirectly contribute to nutrient removal while providing other ecosystem benefits.
Conserving natural lands promotes natural cycling of nutrients through ecosystems, while providing a host of other community benefits. Currently, about 30% of Sarasota County lands have been protected by acquisition or conservation easement.
Trees intercept and promote percolation of rainfall, reducing runoff. Policies that protect mature native trees, and encourage and incentivize tree plantings on both private and public property,
Continued water quality declines in local water bodies, especially in Sarasota County’s southern bays, are likely to be exacerbated by increasing development pressure.
9.2 Coordinate strategic planning for water quality within and across agencies and organizations with local jurisdiction
Coordination of water quality protection and restoration in Sarasota County can be improved by aligning common goals and policies across multiple federal, state, and local management plants.
Intergovernmental coordination to identify, secure and manage grant funds for water quality projects can lead to economies of scale and faster results.
9.4 Support a common publicly accessible website for data storage, visualization, and information sharing
The Water Atlas websites for Sarasota County and the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership are a valuable but underutilized resource for collecting and conveying a variety of data to citizens, scientists, resource managers and users, and policymakers.
9.5 Increase professional capacity by supporting summits, workshops, trainings, tech transfer, and network building
Strategic investments in elevating the skills, knowledge and networks of water quality professionals in the Sarasota area will strengthen their capacity to communicate and collaborate to solve the region’s water quality challenges.
9.6 Develop and deliver collaborative water quality education and outreach using local partnerships and networks
Collaborative education and outreach that capitalizes on trusted local networks, embraces multi-cultural communication, and skillfully delivers consistent and creative science-based messages
9.7 Support local policymaker understanding of the science-policy connections of nutrient management and cost-effectiveness of water quality protection policies
Supporting policymakers with the best available science and information about cost-effective nutrient management strategies, and communicating those concepts clearly and consistently,
Long-term monitoring programs allow policymakers, managers, and the public to identify and address pollution in a timely manner, and track progress toward goals.
10.2 Review existing monitoring programs, fill monitoring gaps, identify pollution sources, and update pollutant load models
Local scientists should collaborate with regional and local water and resource managers to review existing monitoring programs and address the remaining information and data gaps highlighted in this Playbook.