Lawn Fertilizer and Springs - what's the impact?


Springs lovers have seen algae taking over their favorite springs, and know that the algae is being fed by human activity, mostly nutrients, in the form of nitrates, leeching into our waterways from poop and fertilizers. Most springs advocates know that we're polluting our springs with nitrates, but it doesn't seem to be as well known what, exactly, is causing the problem. It's septic tanks! It's lawns! It's herbicides! It's golf courses!


What role, exactly, does lawn fertilizer play in springs health, and what do we do about it?


A relatively small share of Springs Pollution comes from lawn fertilizers.


12%. That's the share of Springs Pollution coming from Urban Fertilizers. "Urban fertilizers" is the official term state agencies give to the fertilizer that's used on grass - home lawns, golf courses, football fields, resorts, parks, all the fertilizers used on grass-covered spaces. The majority of springs pollution, 70% of it, is coming from farms, either crop fertilizers or animal waste. That's why the Florida Springs Council focuses a lot of our effort on urging our state leaders to address agricultural sources of water pollution. It's the lion's share of Springs Pollution and springs can't be restored without figuring out how to help our biggest agricultural producers farm without polluting our waters.


BUT. Reducing lawn fertilizer is incredibly important.

We will still focus on reducing Urban Fertilizer, for three reasons:


1. Each Spring is different

Wekiwa Spring

Springs in the North Central Florida "Springs Heartland" see very little of their pollution coming from home fertilizers because they are surrounded by farmland, not dense development.


But what about springs closer to cities and suburbs? Wekiwa Spring, near metropolitan areas of Central Florida, is one of the most heavily impacted by urban fertilizer, with 37% of that spring's nitrate pollution coming from turf grass fertilizers. Reducing the use of home and other turfgrass fertilizers in the Wekiva basin would have a big impact on the health of that spring and river system.


Other springs heavily impacted by our use of urban fertilizers include the springs along the nature coast:

Homosassa, Chassahowitzka, and Weeki Wachee.


2. Individuals hold a lot of control with this source of pollution

Springs across Florida can't be restored unless we change how big agricultural operations manage nutrient run-off from crop fertilizers and animal waste. But most of us don't own a big agricultural operation, so our individual influence has to come through pressuring lawmakers and agencies to take action. But most of us DO have control over our own lawns.


3. We care about ALL of Florida's waterways

Coastal waters and waterways near urban areas are affected by what we put on our lawns, including the Indian River Lagoon where nutrient pollution has killed off seagrasses and led to a record number of manatee deaths due to starvation. Reducing our use of grass fertilizers is necessary for the health of all of Florida's waters.