Lakes, Marshes and Wetlands

Lake with paddle boats stock image

Things you can do to help maintain our lakes, marshes and wetlands that are part of our Storm Water Management System:

Fertilize wisely:

Nitrogen pollution comes from many sources, including from the fertilizers used on lawns, golf courses and in landscaping. This nitrate-rich water makes its way to surface waters as runoff during rainfall or over-irrigation, or it may drain slowly from the soil over time.

Fertilizer-laden water entering our lakes, marshes and wetlands can lead to excessive growth of aquatic plants and algal blooms.

When fertilizing, using the correct amount of fertilizer can reduce the amount of pollutants reaching waterways, save water and money, and result in a healthier landscape. Over-fertilizing can aggravate pest problems, stimulate excessive plant growth, and demand frequent irrigation.

Fertilizers should be used only when specific nutrient deficiency symptoms are evident.

Florida-friendly lawns require only moderate amounts of supplemental fertilizer once they are established.


  • Avoid overuse of fertilizers, especially near the water’s edge. Rain and lawn watering can wash excess fertilizer into water bodies, where excess nutrients cause algal blooms and undesirable weed growth.
  • The amount of fertilizer to apply depends on a number of factors, such as grass species, soil type and permeability, and your location in the state. Apply fertilizers sparingly, and follow the manufacturer’s directions on the bag, particularly in terms of the amount per application. Know exactly how much area (square feet) of your lawn the bag of fertilizer is intended to cover.
  • Florida soil is naturally high in phosphorus, and therefore, a “No Phosphate” fertilizer is fine for most mature lawns. Apply a phosphate fertilizer only if lacking. For specifics to your area, contact the Flagler County Extension Service at: UF/IFAS Extension Flagler County
  • The best fertilizers for healthy landscapes and the environment are those that contain a high percentage of slow-release, water insoluble forms of nitrogen. Water-insoluble products are not washed away like liquid or fast-release fertilizers. Slow-release products stay in the soil to supply nutrients to plants on a gradual basis, over a longer period of time. The product label will say organic, slow-release or controlled release, water-insoluble nitrogen, sulfur-coated, IBDU (15N-isobutylidene divrea), or resin-coated.
  • Fertilize only during the growing season, which can vary depending on where you live in Florida. Allow a month between autumn application and the first freezing temperatures, which will make new growth less vulnerable to frost.  Use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides only when needed, and apply them responsibly, following the label’s directions. Apply only on affected areas. Consider organic or nontoxic solutions.

Minimize harm from stormwater runoff:

You may not have waterfront property, but the rain that runs off your roof, lawn and driveway can eventually end up in the nearest water body by flowing over land and into storm drains.

A common misconception is that storm drains lead to a treatment plant. Rather, storm drains are direct conduits to your stormwater pond or natural waterway. It is important to never dump or place anything down the storm drain inlet except for rainwater.

Here are some tips to minimize the harm of storm water runoff leaving your home or workplace:

  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. Unwise or excessive use of chemicals can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment. Use nontoxic alternatives whenever possible, and pull weeds by hand.
  • Avoid dumping waste oil, chemicals or yard trash into ponds, inlets or storm drains. Contact your local government’s waste management department for a list of disposal facilities.
  • Repair automobile leaks immediately to reduce runoff from oil and heavy metals, such as lead, copper and cadmium, impacting waterways.
  • Dispose of household hazardous wastes, such as antifreeze, used motor oil and batteries, at designated collection or recycling facilities. Up to five gallons of used motor oil can be taken to most auto parts stores.
  • Clean up after your pet to prevent animal waste from washing into waterways.
  • Use a commercial car wash, or wash your car on the lawn or other unpaved surface.
  • Sweep up yard debris rather than hosing down areas. If trash, grass clippings, branches or litter clog the drains, they can block flow and create localized flooding problems.
  • Compost or recycle yard waste and lawn clippings when possible. Depositing lawn clippings in water bodies and storm drains can increase oxygen demand in the water, which can significantly harm fish populations and damage seagrass beds — vital habitat for animals and aquatic organisms.
  • Properly dispose of excess paints through a household hazardous waste collection program.
  • Sweep up and properly dispose of construction debris such as concrete and mortar.
  • Use plants to create a buffer zone of five feet or more between your yard and any water bodies. Shoreline vegetation can reduce erosion and trap pollutants in stormwater runoff before the runoff reaches water bodies.

For a better understanding of our lakes, marshes and wetlands, follow this link:  Plant Management in Florida Waters

Invasive aquatic plants

Almost all of them having been introduced by people, are taking their ecologic and economic tolls in Florida’s waters and wetlands. Their lack of natural controls in their new homes, their rapid growth rates, multiple reproductive methods, wide dispersal and survival, and broad environmental tolerances enable them to overpopulate and invade. In Florida, invasive plants include at least 100 exotic, non-native trees, grasses, vines, shrubs and ferns that smother, out-compete or otherwise replace our native plants. Melaleuca trees, Japanese climbing ferns, torpedograss, West Indian marsh grass, hydrilla, giant floating fern… we don’t want any of them in our lakes, marshes or wetlands.  Please do your part in not inadvertently introducing non-native, invasive aquatic plants into our lakes, marshes and wetlands.

For a better understanding about why it’s good to manage invasive plants, follow this link:  Why Manage Invasive Plants?

The links below provide some good information on Florida Lakes, the process of eutrophication and the cause of most fish kills being low dissolved oxygen which can be caused by a number of factors.

Lakewatch – Trophic State: A Waterbody’s Ability to Support plants, fish and wildlife

Lakewatch:  A Beginner’s Guide to Water Management

Fish Kills:  Understanding Fish Kills in Florida Freshwater Systems