Protect, Restore, and Conserve: The Importance of Clean Water in Martin County

August 31, 2022 | Read Time: 4 minutes

bird on the waterway Florida

From its year-round sub-tropical climate to plentiful access to lakes, rivers, and oceans, it’s no secret that the story of Florida is a story of water. As the epicenter of that water story, Martin County is home to one of the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystems in the entire Northern hemisphere. Perfectly positioned between the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River, the St. Lucie estuary is an ecological jewel, and its clean water is central to the health and well-being of the surrounding Treasure Coast communities. This preservation, however, is an uphill battle that Martin County residents continue to fight every day.

mangroves on the st lucie river

The Historical Struggle Behind Martin County’s Waterways

Comprised of mangrove swamps, oyster and seagrass beds, flats and lively coral reefs, the St. Lucie estuary is not only a dynamic haven for over 4,300 aquatic species, but also its connections to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades are a source of drinking water for millions of Floridians. However, as industrialized agriculture expanded in the 1800s, water diversions and flood-control projects of the Everglades have resulted in a degraded water quality where the health of critical coastal systems like the St. Lucie estuary are greatly at risk. Phosphate-laden farm water runoffs polluted Lake Okeechobee, and with nowhere else to go, the polluted water is pumped to the coast. This has prompted blooms of toxic green algae in the St. Lucie waters, leading to a radical decline in native wildlife, harmful bacteria along Florida’s beaches, and an overall impact to the quality of life for Martin County residents.

colorful skies over the st lucie river

The Fight for Clean Water

For decades, poor water management practices in Florida have persisted due to a lack of awareness. Today, however, many public officials have stepped up to protect and restore these ecosystems. Over the last 20 years, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has worked with Florida to invest $1.8 billion in phosphorus control programs, and Stormwater Treatment Areas that remove excess nutrients from runoff water before discharging it into natural areas.

As governing board member of the SFWMD, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch uses her blog to educate more than 4,000 subscribers statewide on the importance of preserving and protecting the environment. She has also overseen multiple of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s projects designed to restore the Everglades and send the polluted water south rather than east. U.S. Congressman Brian Mast has also played an integral role in conserving Martin County’s clean water, expanding the state’s original Land and Water Conservation Fund to include stormwater system rehabilitations and regulation projects specifically related to water quality improvement.

Florida Oceanographic Society doing research
Photography Credit: Florida Oceanographic Society

Local Activists Are Protecting the Future

Political activists, however, aren’t the only ones fighting to conserve the St. Lucie estuary. Concerned Martin County citizens, private businesses, and conservation organizations have rallied together to keep clean water a priority issue. Organizations including Captains for Clean Water and Rivers Coalition have pressured the local and federal government to speed up their conservancy timelines, hold polluters accountable, and stop nutrient overloads. RiverKidz focuses specifically on youth education, showing that people of any age can advocate for change through writing to government officials, protecting the environment, and speaking out to help save the rivers and waterways.

The Florida Oceanographic Society leads efforts in biodiversity research, long-term monitoring of water quality, and volunteer-driven restoration of oysters, seagrass, and mangroves throughout South Florida. Their 57-acre Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart also serves as a hands-on natural learning environment for thousands of annual visitors, centered around conserving Florida’s marine life and local coastal ecosystems.

half submerged into the water

A New Chapter in Restoring Martin County’s Water Story

These local organizations are just the beginning of clean water efforts Martin County residents will continue to see. Acknowledging how important these waterways are to residents, a new restoration initiative is on the horizon. To learn more about how Storie can be a part of the solution, register your interest at

Reposted on August-2023

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