After more than two decades of work to restore water quality in the Florida Everglades it’s now nearing federal and state standards.
The milestone comes after the federal government and the state invested billions of dollars in manmade wetlands and improved farming techniques aimed at limiting the amount of phosphorous flowing into the Everglades.
Julie Hill-Gabriel of Audubon Florida says the efforts are meant to protect the river of grass from nutrients like phosphorous found in fertilizers and urban run-off.
“The Everglades is just a very subtle source of life. But because of those low levels of nutrients, that’s what really made this a unique ecosystem with species that can be found nowhere else in the world.”
But she says the summer’s toxic algae blooms demonstrate that more work is needed.
Stuart Van Horn of the South Florida Water Management District says the standards are aimed at nutrients like phosphorous that help non-native vegetation like cattails flourish.
“One of the things that we’ve been able to see with the reduction of phosphorous is that the spread or the advancement of those cattail stands that used to go unchecked because of the high phosphorous levels, they’ve pretty much stopped growing.”
There’s also a 30-year, $17 billion restoration of the Everglades that’s about halfway done. The ecosystem supports the drinking water for more than a third of Floridians.