FIU and South Florida Water Management District Partner to Study Nitrogen in Caloosahatchee River

Aug 26, 2014

Credit Nikoretro/Flickr

The South Florida Water Management District is teaming up with Florida International University to study nitrogen in the Caloosahatchee River.

The study will examine the interplay between nitrogen and a range of naturally-occurring bacteria in the water.

South Florida Water Management District senior scientist Cassondra Thomas said previous testing showed most of the nitrogen in the Caloosahatchee is in a form called organic nitrogen. She said bacteria has a tougher time with this type of nitrogen.

“Some forms of organic nitrogen include DNA, ammonic acids,” she said. “So, they’re a lot more complex, they’re bigger molecules and it takes a lot more to break them down.”

Florida International University researchers will take water samples along the Caloosahatchee to see what the bacteria does with the nitrogen.

The study is one component of the District’s plan to develop a new type of what are called Stormwater Treatment Areas or STA’s. STA’s are wetlands designed to remove nutrients from the water that flows through it.

Water managers had success crafting STA’s that remove phosphorous. Now, they’re focusing on nitrogen. Nitrogen is a fertilizer that can lead to algal blooms.

The study will cost $200,000 and is expected to last until early 2016.