New water cleaning project aims to improve the health of SWFL water systems

Published: December 13, 2021 3:28 PM EST
Updated: December 13, 2021 6:08 PM EST

The South Florida Water Management District announced a new water quality project to protect Lake Okeechobee and our coast. The plan is to clean water before it enters the lake.

The project will use wetlands and technology to clean pollution in the river before it goes into Lake Okeechobee and before it makes it to our coast.

It starts by cleaning up the water in the Kissimmee River.

Ben Butler, a member of the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) board says, “we’re farming plants, and using those plants to uptake the nutrients to help clean the water and eventually send the water on down lake o and eventually down into the everglades.”

Kyle Graham, a senior program manager with Ecosystem Investment Partners, said constructing wetlands north of Lake Okeechobee, with the help of filtering technology, will clean nutrient pollution from the water before it enters the lake.

Graham said, “controlling and doing something about the health of the water that actually enters the lake will go a long way to keeping the water clean and having good water quality to both of those coastal environments.”

Graham says the Kissimmee water quality project should be complete in the next five to six years.

In that same time period, the areas around Lake Okeechobee will look very different as a series of other water projects will be taking place, and hopefully bringing with them cleaner water

A project north of Punta Rassa could help improve our water quality all the way on our coast.

Chauncey Goss, chairman of SFWMD’s governing board is excited about the prospect of cleaner water. Goss said a stormwater treatment area in the lower Kissimmee will clean water before it enters Lake Okeechobee and makes its way southwest.

“There’s going to be some other innovative technologies they’re using to try and pull some of the nutrients, which would be phosphorus and nitrogen out of the water. So it’s not going to end up in our backyard,” said Goss.

Nutrients that can fuel algal blooms like blue-green algae and red tide.

The stormwater treatment area is just one of the dozens of projects designed to help everything from Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells north of the lake to the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir south of the lake.

Goss said, “what that’s really going to be able to do is that’s the biggest reservoir, it’s going to help the everglades so much and moving water south.”

The C-44, which just opened, and C-43 reservoirs east and west will help with water quality too. “When all these infrastructure projects come online as they’re, they’re going to soon then we’re really going to be in good shape,” said Goss.

All the projects are designed to restore the environment and protect the health and livelihoods of the people who depend on it.