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What Causes Water Pollution? How do we fix it?

There are many sources of water pollution. There is point source pollution that comes from industry and utilities and non-point source pollution that comes from agriculture, illicit or accidental dumping to name a few. The common denominator that pollution is related to human activity. The good news is that people are becoming much more innovative and learning how to better co-exist with nature.

Here are common pollution sources and everyday solutions in Lee County...

Development can create nutrient pollution by replacing wetlands and upland forests with homes and common areas that simply generate more pollution overall through human alteration and use than was previously on the land surface.

Solution: There are various pollution prevention practices that we can use to decrease household and common area pollution impacts starting with the very construction of buildings and green spaces. Some pollution prevention practices overlap into other issues discussed below. Learn more about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.) certified construction practices, Low Impact Development (L.I.D.) practices and green space practices that you can even do at home! The Federal government even gives tax incentives for energy savings that prevent pollution through the Energy Star Program!


Automobiles create various by-products when they burn fuel. Aside from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, automobiles produce nitrogen oxides that are volatilized into the air and deposited on land and in the water through rainfall.

Solution: Florida is a wonderful place to walk or ride a bike a bicycle year-round! Walking or bicycling where ever possible helps cut emissions significantly. Mass transit is another way to cut your daily emissions by cutting the number of people on the road. Another benefit is that you do not have to worry about hectic rush-hour traffic. For more information on Lee County's public transportation schedule please visit LeeTran.


Septic tanks are a very commonly utilized method of onsite treatment and disposal of waste water in Lee County and throughout Florida. Septic tanks work well if they are installed and maintained properly. An important issue addressed by current design criteria for septic tanks in Florida is allowing adequate percolation into the ground and keeping the tank and drain field separate from the ground water table. Systems older than 1995 often do not meet the current design criteria and do not have adequate separation from the groundwater flows. This can cause surface water pollution because of the porous nature of Florida's karst topography.

Solution: To learn about your septic system (onsite treatment and disposal system or OSTDS) click here. EPA recommends septic tank pump-outs and system inspection be performed every 3 to 5 years depending on how many people live in your household.


Fertilizer application is performed on public property, home owner association common areas, agricultural lands, commercial and residential properties. Excess or improper application of fertilizers introduces a significant amount of nutrients into our watersheds. Lee County is currently working on a fertilizer ordinance to reduce nutrient pollution from inappropriate use.

Solution: Selecting plants for your garden or common area that are native or Florida Friendly will save time, effort, money and prevent pollution. Plants that are adapted to Florida's environment will require less water, little or no fertilizer or pesticide and less overall maintenance. If you have an established garden there are certain techniques you can use to reduce your landscape water and chemical dependency. People often over-estimate how much fertilizer, pesticide and water their plants really need. Visit the Lee County Extension Services for more information on native and Florida Friendly Landscape as well as guidelines on proper landscape maintenance.


Domesticated animal waste is a source of nutrient pollution that is more common than you think. This can include dog and cat waste simply left on the ground, livestock waste left on the ground where it can become stormwater run-off or livestock wading in streams.

Solution: Picking up dog and cat waste around your house or while walking your pet is a great way to prevent stormwater pollution in your community. Most people are very good at picking up after their dogs at dog parks out of consideration for others who use the park. The same should be true of our neighborhoods! Pet waste can be disposed of in regular trash or in your septic/sewage system provided there are no additional solids included. People with small farms can implement Florida's "Good Neighbor Guidelines" to prevent stormwater pollution on their property.


We are all responsible!

If every resident of Lee County took steps to prevent pollution by doing simple things such as picking up pet waste, using public transportation more often, landscaping with Florida Friendly plants, observing water restrictions, fertilizer restrictions and pumping out and maintaining septic tanks we could all have good water quality.

For more information Lee County's Water Quality Program please contact Karen Bickford at or 239-533-8706.