The department monitors water quality for three primary purposes:
- Strategic monitoring, to assess the chemical and biological health of individual waterbodies throughout Florida to determine which ones need to be restored;
- Statistically representative monitoring, to gain a general understanding of statewide water quality conditions and trends; and
- Site-specific monitoring, to help determine the compliance of regulated facilities and the success of restoration programs; or responding to episodic events such as chemical spills and algal blooms.
Regardless of the programmatic purpose, monitoring involves gathering information, including sampling data, to determine if the conditions in streams, lakes, springs, estuaries, coastal waters and aquifers are suitable for their designated uses, whether as drinking water sources, shellfish waters, recreational areas, or for agriculture.
The information gathered may include the chemical, physical or biological conditions of the waterbody, generally in order to compare them to the healthy conditions established by Florida’s water quality standards. Samples are taken and handled to conform to rigorous protocols so that laboratory scientists, following other precise practices, can measure the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, mercury, iron, bacteria and other constituents that affect water quality.
Detailed measurements and observations of physical conditions also are taken, including temperature, flow, sediments and erosion levels. Plant, wildlife and habitat data may be gathered to provide more context.
Collectively, all of this monitoring information determines waterbody health and provides clues to potential pollution sources and restoration needs.
For more information on monitoring: