Groundwater Nitrates and Fertilizer

Fertilizer is one of the major sources of nitrates

fertilizer, nitrate, water, springs, homosassa
SWFWMD data on nitrate source

in Florida’s groundwater. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection BMAP for the Homosassa watershed breaks down the separate categories of nitrate loading. Over 40% of groundwater nitrates are linked to fertilizer use. Residential use contributes to over half of that total. Fertilizer nitrates are easily picked up by storm-water as it flows across yards and gardens and directly into our rivers. Any excess fertilizer not absorbed by plants can leech into the soil and into the aquifer.

fertilizer nitrates water aquifer homosassa
Homosassa River Springshed

Why high levels matter

High levels are directly related to severe algae blooms. Lyngbya is a filamentous algae suffocating the native grasses of the Homosassa River. High nitrates, low oxygen, low light are perfect conditions in which algae thrives. Besides being unsightly and having an unpleasant smell Lyngbya also contains toxins harmful to human skin. When algae dies it consumes oxygen in water further exacerbating the problem. By lowering the nitrate levels we eliminate one of the factors necessary for Lyngbya to survive. We remove legacy nitrates during the restoration process . Ultimately you want to limit them in the first place.

nitrate lyngbya homosassa river fertilizer algae
This is the stuff (Lyngbya) we will remove from the river


What You Can Do

Each of us can do our part to help lower the nitrates entering our aquifer. When and how you fertilize is your responsibility. You can also:

  • Urge the Citrus County Commission to implement stricter fertilizer ordinances and follow ones currently in place
  • Minimize fertilizer use, especially near springs and rivers.
  • Capture storm water with berms and swales. The goal is to capture the first inch of rainfall and let it filter into the soil.

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