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Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve - Water Quality

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Improving degraded water quality in the Pensacola Bay Watershed is a main priority for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Much of the decline in habitat throughout, including seagrass, can be attributed to a reduction in water quality from decreased light penetration. The degradation in water quality can be attributed to several factors including point and non-point pollution sources impacting Blackwater and East bays. Wastewater facilities, septic systems and stormwater systems can all discharge potential excess nitrogen and phosphorus into the estuarine system, decreasing primary productivity. The EPA suggests a guideline of 10:1 ratio of concentrations of nitrogen to phosphorus, which are often higher in the bayous of the Pensacola Bay Watershed.

Several wastewater facilities discharge treated effluent into the system north of Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve. Additionally, degraded septic tanks in nearby towns ultimately affect water quality. Probably close to half of the population surrounding the aquatic preserve uses septic systems, and it is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of these septic systems fail each year. The homeowner may not even be aware of the system’s failure, and thus repairs are not always addressed in a timely manner. Stormwater runoff is another factor currently being addressed by local agencies, and was elevated to an issue of high importance when severe flooding events in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties in 2014 overloaded facilities and infrastructure.

Strategies for improving water quality within Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve include:

  • Continue to implement a continuous water quality monitoring program, and add additional monitoring sites, with additional information such as rain events.
  • Promote research within the aquatic preserve with the University of West Florida and other institutions of higher education to promote a basin-wide approach on how regional impacts affect these systems.
  • Use lessons from successful habitat restoration and enhancement projects to expand on how projects increase beneficial habitat and the anticipated time for improved water quality.
  • Work with the city of Milton and Santa Rosa County to promote cost incentives and education/outreach to homeowners for septic-to-sewer conversion.
  • Promote regional based efforts to adapt stormwater infrastructure to accommodate larger rain events.

Last Modified:
February 24, 2023 - 3:11pm

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