Two Projects Will Improve Water Retention on the Landscape and Reduce Lake O Discharges to St. Lucie Estuary

C-23/24 Stormwater Treatment Area

Florida’s coastal estuaries have long been plagued by algae blooms, fueled by stormwater runoff from regional sources and nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee. A critical part of Everglades restoration involves finding places to store and treat this water before it reaches those sensitive estuarine environments. The C23/24 Stormwater Treatment Area does just that.

In a win for Everglades restoration, the South Florida Water Management District broke ground this February on the 2,070-acre C-23/24 Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) that will hold and treat about 4,800 acre-feet of water from the C-23/24 canals and Fort Pierce Farms Basins. It will remove nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) and sediments that flow into the St. Lucie Estuary and eventually the Indian River Lagoon. With more than 3,000 species of plants and animals, the Indian River Lagoon is the most diverse estuary in the country. The C-23/24 STA is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Scott Water Farm

Audubon celebrated another major step forward in efforts to clean up the St. Lucie Estuary with the completion of the Scott Water Farm project this spring. The Scott Water Farm stores water across 7,500 acres of private land and is designed to capture and clean 29,000 acre-feet of polluted water before it reaches the St. Lucie Estuary.

Why Water Farming? Water farming captures onsite rainfall and diverts and pumps water from canals before they become harmful discharges to the estuaries. The project will help curtail future harmful algal blooms in the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon by redirecting water to the farm’s reservoirs. Once stored, the water will also percolate through the soil, providing for aquifer recharge as well.

How Does this Project Impact the Everglades? Harmful algal blooms have been a recurring issue in Florida, especially in the coastal estuaries due to excess nutrients from upstream urban and agricultural runoff. Algal blooms can damage plants and wildlife and can be a public health risk. It is estimated that 200,000 acre-feet of water must be stored in the St. Lucie watershed to reduce damage to the St. Lucie Estuary from Lake O discharges and regional inflows. This water farm gets us another 15% closer to the 200,000-acre-foot goal.

This article was published in the Spring edition of State of the Everglades.

How you can help, right now