Everglades farming exceeds phosphorus reduction mandated goals

The use of improved Best Management Practices produced a 70 percent phosphorus reduction in the 470,000-acre EAA farming region south of Lake Okeechobee.

A program to improve Everglades water quality by ensuring the water flowing from farmlands in the Everglades Agricultural Area meets phosphorus reductions required by law has performed far better than state-mandated goals, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

The use of improved farming techniques, known as Best Management Practices, produced a 70 percent phosphorus reduction in the 470,000-acre EAA farming region south of Lake Okeechobee for the Water Year 2017 monitoring period (May 1, 2016 - April 30, 2017). Florida's Everglades Forever Act requires that the amount of phosphorus leaving the EAA must be 25 percent less than before reduction efforts began.

"These tremendous results year after year are proof positive of the hard work from our farming community, who are doing their part to improve Everglades water quality," said Jim Moran, South Florida Water Management District Governing Board vice chairman. "This program, coupled with the state's investment in stormwater treatment areas and other measures, have restored Everglades water quality and continue to make it better every year."

South Florida's water, especially water moved into Everglades National Park by SFWMD, is cleaner than it has been in generations and meets stringent water quality requirements.

“We continue to make headway in restoring the health of the Everglades, and the Everglades Agricultural Area has, yet again, exceeded state-mandated goals with its phosphorous reduction achievement. This phosphorous reduction is a testament to the fact that Best Management Practices, which are science-based and implemented by farmers throughout Florida, are working and protect the quality and quantity of our water,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.

According to South Florida Water Management District, when measured in actual mass, 152 metric tons of phosphorus were prevented from leaving the EAA and entering the regional canal system, which sends water into the Everglades during the water year 2017 monitoring period. Since WY1996, the BMP program has prevented 3,208 metric tons of phosphorus from leaving the EAA. The average long-term reduction in total phosphorus since WY1996 has been 55 percent.
  Just west of the EAA, in the 170,000-acre C-139 Basin, a BMP program has been in place since 2002. In November 2010, the program requirements were enhanced to better control the nutrient runoff. For the WY2016 monitoring period, data show the actual mass of phosphorus discharged from the basin during that time was 26 metric tons, which surpasses the state requirements.

Ongoing work continues to focus on improving phosphorus reductions in this basin, which historically reports elevated nutrient levels in its runoff.

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