Water Quality Data Resources

January 9, 2023

The Conservancy has evaluated many of the water quality data collection programs conducted by both agencies and non-profits as they relate to SWFL.  You may find these resources helpful if you are wanting to learn more about water quality in your area. We cannot attest to the relevance, reliability or consistency of these data sources.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Red Tide Program

FWC samples for Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tide, in multiple locations daily throughout the state’s coastal areas. The information is updated daily at 5 pm. The interactive map shows data for the last 8 days. You can sign up for alerts which typically comes out on Friday.

Florida Healthy Beaches Program

Florida’s beach water sampling program includes testing for fecal indicator bacteria in 30 coastal counties. According to the website, testing occurs on a bi-weekly basis, however, data suggests that it is collected weekly in the summer months and during season at various beaches although not consistently.

Mote Marine Lab Beach Conditions Reporting System

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Beach Conditions Reporting System, (BCRS) is a website and mobile app that currently collects and disperses beach conditions from over 50 coastal locations including many in SWFL. The BCRS is completely dependent on a network of trained and dedicated volunteers (Beach Ambassadors) who submit reports 1-2 times per day, 4-7 days per week (with morning and weekend reports being a priority). BCRS reports include parameters such as beach flag color, water surface temperature, surf type, wave height, crowds, debris, etc., as well as parameters for dead fish and respiratory irritation commonly associated with the occurrence of Florida red tide and other harmful algal blooms (HABs). Reports also include information that is automatically pulled from an external API, such as wind speed and direction, UV index, sunrise and sunset times, air temperature, low/high tide times, etc. The website does not provide any information about water quality conditions.

Algal Bloom Sampling Status Dashboard

The interactive dashboard houses information and real-time sampling updates for harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Florida.

Florida Department of Environment (FDEP) reviews citizen reports of algal blooms received via the online reporting form or hotline and coordinates with other agencies who are also sampling – South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and Lee County – to decide the sampling team to respond based on the location of the bloom relative to the sampling schedule for that day. The department, water management districts and FWC routinely survey and sample locations in South Florida and are prepared to collect samples if algae is present. The public can sign up for weekly updates.

Florida STORET Public Access (SPA) website

SPA provides access to the water quality, biological, and physical data collected in Florida that are provided to the Department of Environmental Protection for storage and retrieval.

The original site is quite cumbersome however, there is a lite version on the main page that is slightly more user-friendly.

Watershed Information Network (WIN)

WIN is the FDEP repository for environmental data from non-regulatory data and replaces Florida STORET as an active repository. Data providers and users include federal, state and local agencies, academic institutions, volunteer organizations, private laboratories, & others. You must register for an account to access data.

Protecting Florida Together

The Protecting Florida Together water quality map provides water quality information, including blue-green algae, red tide and nutrients.

The tool was designed based on extensive stakeholder interviews that named key concerns and desired information about water quality. Information for this map is provided by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

South Florida Water Management District

South Florida Management District’s mission is to “safeguard and restore South Florida’s water resources and ecosystems, protect our communities from flooding, and meet the region’s water needs while connecting with the public and stakeholders.” Real time data on their website is related to levels and flows. The district also collects water quality data  in canals and other surface water bodies, users can query the DBHYDRO database to get information. However, this information lacks any sort of interpretation. Users can do online training on how to use the database.

Collier County

The County’s monitoring programs include non-tidal surface water, groundwater and sediment quality. Project goals include tracking long-term water quality trends, identifying chronic pollution inputs, providing data to support the Total Maximum Daily Load Program, supply support for water resources management decisions and meeting the mandates of the County’s Growth Management and Watershed Management Plans. The county collects samples monthly from 66 locations throughout the county. The surface water data is published yearly in April and includes both short-term and long-term trends. 

Data collected is uploaded to Florida Department of Environmental Protection STORET (STOrage and RETreval) database annually. While most of the information is comprehensive and shows long-term trends it cannot be used for current public health updates.  However, Collier County does have a Current Red Tide Status page on their website with data they collect and report out on a weekly basis.

Lee County

Lee County Natural Resources Environmental Lab does provide Surface Water lab results, however, Enterococci data appears to only be tested or reported monthly.

Calusa Waterkeeper

Calusa Waterkeeper, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Caloosahatchee River & Estuary, Lake Okeechobee, Nicodemus Slough, Charlotte Harbor, Estero Bay, the near-shore waters of Lee County, and their watersheds. The organization looks at fecal indicator bacteria ( FIB) and at Cyanobacteria, Cyanotoxins and BMAA. They collect FIB samples regularly 1-2 per month, the other tests are done on an as-needed basis.

Collier County Waterkeeper

Collier County Water Keeper (CCWK) is a nonprofit based in Naples that utilizes volunteers to collect samples that test for fecal indicators. The CCWK does not test on a regular basis nor is their data available on their website. For test results followers can tune in to their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is based on Sanibel Island and their mission is to “Protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems through our focus on Water Quality Research, Policy and Advocacy, Sea Turtles and Shorebirds, Native Landscaping, Habitat and Wildlife Management, and Environmental Education.” SCCF produces a weekly report of Caloosahatchee, estuary and coastal conditions to provide real-time current local monitored water conditions.

SCCF also has The River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network, water quality sensors deployed throughout the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary to provide real-time, water quality data to scientists, policy makers, and the public. Several sensors are offline due to Hurricane Ian and SCCF is working to get them back online. The website is easy to use and supplies real-time data. Users can sign up for the weekly conditions reports.

Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership

Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP) is a part of the National Estuary Partnership and is based in Port Charlotte, FL. One of their major programs is the Water Atlas website which collects and analyzes water quality data from various entities to make it publicly available.

The Water Quality Dashboard shows data from Chlorophyll a TP, TN, Clarity and Bacteria and provides an overall snapshot.