SFWMD Partnership Analyzes More Water Quality Improvements

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) approved a $600,000 cooperative agreement with the Everglades Agricultural Area Environmental Protection District to analyze performance of the district's six Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs), which were built to improve water quality in the Everglades.

The goal of the one-year agreement is to optimize STA performance by analyzing phosphorus-removal results and identifying ways to enhance performance and sustainability of these vital treatment wetlands.

"Everglades water quality improvements remain a top priority at the district," said Eric Buermann, SFWMD governing board chair. "This partnership in the Everglades Agricultural Area will help in achieving the best possible results from the treatment wetlands, so vital to delivering cleaner water to the South Florida ecosystem."

Everglades STAs, which are planted with native vegetation, use "green technology" to reduce phosphorus levels in stormwater runoff. To date, the district has converted more than 52,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee to STAs, yielding 45,000 acres of treatment wetlands. An additional 12,000 acres are now being designed as part of the district's ongoing effort to improve Everglades water quality.

Since inception, the STAs have retained 1,058 metric tons of phosphorus that would have otherwise entered the Everglades. In addition to their role in improving Everglades water quality, the massive treatment wetlands have become a haven for South Florida wildlife, particularly wading birds and migratory waterfowl. Many of the STAs have been opened to the public for recreation such as hiking, biking and bird watching.