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St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve - Water Quality

Water quality monitoring has increasingly become an important part of the aquatic preserve’s role in understanding the bay’s natural processes. Monitoring water quality allows researchers to document short-term variability and long-term changes in the status of the bay’s health and facilitates in implementing appropriate protection for waterways. The collected data can be used to gain a better understanding of how water quality is impacted and will help us understand the important role we play in water conservation. Water quality issues influence human and environmental health, therefore, monitoring changes to the bay’s waterways and having an adequate monitoring program is essential to being able to recognize and prevent contamination problems.

A healthy bay contains a balanced amount of nutrients and normal fluctuations in salinity and temperature. It also has plenty of oxygen, which is a basic requirement for nearly all aquatic biota, and little suspended sediment, so that living aquatic resources can breathe or receive enough sunlight to grow. Nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, occur naturally in water, soil and air. Just as nutrient fertilizers are used to promote plant growth on lawns and farm fields, nutrients in the bay encourage the growth of aquatic plants and algae. Although nutrients are essential to all plant life within the bay, an excess of these nutrients can be harmful. This is called nutrient pollution.

The two general sources of adverse impacts on water quality are point and nonpoint source pollution. Point source pollution can be traced to a single identifiable source, such as a discharge pipe. Nonpoint source pollution comes from diffuse sources such as stormwater runoff that collects sediment, nutrients, bacteria, pesticides, fertilizers, animal or human waste, heavy metals, oil and grease. When rain moves over and through the ground, the water absorbs and assimilates any pollutants it contacts. Following a heavy rainstorm for example, water will flow across a parking lot and pick up oil left on the asphalt by cars. When these nutrient sources are not controlled, excess nutrients find their way into the groundwater, creeks, rivers, and eventually the bay. Stormwater runoff is considered the primary water quality threat in most of the watershed. It causes habitat degradation, fish kills and closure of shellfish beds and swimming areas. Continued long-term water quality monitoring is essential to protect the valuable natural resources in St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve.

As a part of the efforts to maintain and improve the water quality in St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve, staff will employ several strategies.

  • Develop a strategic long-term water quality monitoring program that includes biotic and abiotic parameters, and compile analyzed data to evaluate water quality status and trends. This will be achieved through dataloggers at priority locations and the collection of these continuous water quality parameters: temperature, specific conductivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and depth.
  • Monitor nutrients and water clarity in St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve through a partnership with DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration (DEAR) to determine total nitrogen and phosphorous, chlorophyll, and water clarity. This project requires staff to collect water samples and relevant data once a month at the designated sampling sites.
  • Evaluate and, if needed, expand Baywatch water quality sampling in St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve by adding more water quality monitoring sites within the aquatic preserve.
  • Partner with other state and local agencies to identify potential point and nonpoint sources of pollution in St. Andrews Bay and develop a monitoring plan to effectively evaluate the impacts from this type of pollution.
  • Partner with other local and state agencies to assist in monitoring the distribution and abundance of specific indicator species, including scallops and seagrass, to determine the ecological health of the bay system.
  • Determine the biodiversity of St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve by establishing baseline data and broad scale characterizations of benthic communities which are sensible indicators of habitat quality in an aquatic environment.
  • Acquire data and work in conjunction with other agencies to develop a biological assessment report.
  • Support the development of nutrient criteria.
  • Support the development of TMDLs. Work with DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration to contribute to a centralized water quality storage database and website.
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Last Modified:
March 3, 2020 - 2:12pm

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