City of Naples Prevails In Local Fertilizer Ordinance Challenge

April 12, 2022

Congratulations to the City of Naples on successfully defending their local fertilizer ordinance! 

The City of Naples has a long history of taking proactive measures to help address local water quality concerns, such as stormwater runoff and nutrient pollution. Many of Florida’s waterways do not meet water quality standards, and nutrient pollution is one of the state’s biggest issues. Nutrient pollution — excess nitrogen and phosphorous — can come from many different sources, including untreated sewage, leaking septic tanks, inadequately treated stormwater, and animal waste. Nutrient pollution can also come from the improper application of fertilizer either on agricultural lands or even from our own backyards.

In 2019, City Council, with the strong support of the Conservancy, wisely adopted a fertilizer ordinance that included scientifically based and ecologically important provisions, such as a rainy season ban on fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous.  This ban helps to ensure that fertilizer does not inadvertently wash into our waterways during the heavy rains that we experience in the height of rainy season (June – September).  

When an organization representing lawn care services, turf managers, and other similar entities challenged the fertilizer ordinance in Circuit Court, the city did not hesitate to defend both the substance of the ordinance and the city’s legal right to adopt an ordinance more stringent than the State of Florida model ordinance standards. As background, the state model ordinance is considered the minimum standards, but local municipalities can adopt more stringent measures (such as rainy season ban on application, a wider buffer between application area and the water’s edge, and caps on the amount of fertilizer applied) to protect their water resources. Because water is essential to our quality of life, over 110 cities and counties in Florida have been proactive in protecting their waterways by adopting more stringent local ordinances that include rules more stringent than the state model. 

In late 2021, Collier County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Krier ruled in favor of the City of Naples with regard to the city’s ability to adopt a fertilizer ordinance that is more stringent than the state model ordinance. 

Then, on April 5th, 2022, Judge Krier again ruled in favor of the city, thus putting to rest the claim that the city did not comply with Florida statutory requirements when adopting their fertilizer ordinance.  These rulings affirm that the Naples ordinance is legal and will remain in effect. As rainy season quickly approaches, this is wonderful news. Thank you to the Naples City Council and staff for all of the hard work and fortitude in successfully defending this important local ordinance.

Read our Letter to City of Naples Re: Fertilizer Ordinance and Letter to Collier County Re: Fertilizer Ordinance regarding implementing a more stringent fertilizer ordinance, which includes a rainy-season ban on the application of fertilizer.

Many municipalities in our five-county area have adopted a good set of practices to minimize fertilizer pollution — some better than others. The Conservancy can provide a draft ordinance for any city or county to use in order to protect their water quality. The Conservancy will continue its efforts to promote strong ordinances to keep our waters clean.


  • Refrain from applying before expected rain, flood, tropical storm, hurricane event, or during the rainy season (June 1-September 30) when frequent rain is expected. These events allow fertilizer to be picked up in the stormwater runoff or leach more quickly into the groundwater resources.
  • Limit your yard’s need for fertilizer or other chemical applications by choosing the right plant for the right place and utilizing native landscaping. Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program provides a good model for these efforts.
  • Look for a fertilizer product that contains no less than 50% slow-release nitrogen (N), as well as 0% phosphorous (P). Many Southwest Florida soils have phosphorous already present, so additional phosphorous may not be needed. A slow release product will help ensure that the nutrients aren’t washed away quickly at the next rain event.
  • Don’t apply more than 4 lbs. of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet per year. Many municipalities also have an ordinance that stipulates how much nitrogen (N) can be applied per application. Try this survey from Lee County to evaluate your lawn’s exact fertilizer needs. Consider that if you use reclaimed water that these waters typically already contain a high level of nutrients.
  • Don’t apply fertilizer within 10 feet of a water body, pond, wetland, or canal. Use a deflector shield on your applicator to limit the chance that fertilizer ends up directly in the water body.
  • If fertilizer is spilled, don’t rinse away into the storm drains, streets, or driveways. Pick up the fertilizer instead. Sources of natural nutrients such as grass clippings should be swept back onto lawns for disposal and decomposition instead of onto the street or into storm drains.
  • Ask your lawn care provider or your homeowner’s association to implement these Southwest Florida-friendly practices.

Learn more about fertilizer best practices here: