Learn the Issues


redfish in ocean

Caloosahatchee River & Estuary

  • 67 miles long, the river was once shallow and winding with oxbows.
  • Now regulated waterway for navigation and discharge of Lake Okeechobee water releases.
  • Watershed west of Lake O developed and over-drained, sending even more polluted waters to the estuary.
  • World famous for its inshore fishing, the river is known to be where the first tarpon was caught by rod and reel in 1885, forever changing angling history.

Lake Okeechobee

  • 730 square miles, the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the continental US.
  • Nationally recognized largemouth bass and black crappie fisheries, and a catfish commerical fishery.
  • The five counties surrounding the lake estimated more than $117 million of freshwater fishing retail sales in 2000.
  • Pre-1900’s water quality was described as clear and alkaline, and bottom sediment was “clean sand.”

Estero Bay

  • Florida’s first Aquatic Preserve, designated in 1966.
  • Designated as Outstanding Florida Waters because of exceptional ecological significance.
  • Rapid urbanization of the area requires special attention to runoff.

Tourism, the Backbone of our Economy

  • Lee County tourism employs 1 out of every 5 people.
  • Approximately 5 million visitors a year spend over $3 billion.
  • 92% of these visitors claim to enjoy the beaches during their trip.
  • In 2016, 12% disliked the water quality, up from 5% in 2015.

Harmful Events

  • Farm & urban runoff introduces nutrients into the watershed.
  • Nutrients exceed natural levels, promoting cyanobacteria growth.
  • Cyanobacteria become so abundant it consumes most of the available oxygen.
  • Fish and other aqutatic life suffocate; seagrass shrouded from light dies.
  • Bacteria and other pathogens become an increasing threat throughout our watershed.

Cyanobacteria Health Risks

  • Cyanobacteria produce a number of cyanotoxins, each with unique risks.
  • Headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and respiratory paralysis potentially leading to death are only a few of the health risks.
  • BMAA, produced by some cyanobacteria, is linked to Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Even pets face risk, at least 58% of cyanotoxin poisoning proves fatal to dogs.

Water Quality & Property Values

  • In 2015, Florida Realtors concluded that homebuyers consider algal blooms and water discharge events when making offers; recurring algal blooms distresses home prices.
  • A one-foot increase in water clarity increases Lee County property values by approx. $541 million.
  • Only single-family homes on or within easy walking distance of water bodies were considered; the effect on condominiums and other properties would prove equally significant.
  • This estimate is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall economic impact of water quality on leisure, recreation, and marine industries in Lee County.

Our Priority Items

Marina 1 alt

Harmful Algal Blooms

Cyanobacteria & Red Tide

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and Karenia brevis (red tide) have been making major impacts in Southwest Florida.


Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Revise System Operating Manual

The Caloosahatchee River often suffers from too much freshwater in the wet season, and not enough freshwater in the dry season.

Cassani at Billy's Creek

Bacteria Monitoring

Fecal Indicator Bacteria Contamination

Calusa Waterkeeper is at the forefront of monitoring Lee County tributaries for fecal indicator bacteria.

Chiquita Lock

Cape Coral Spreader Canals

Nutrient & Sediment Loading

The City of Cape Coral is working to remove large storm-water barriers to make recreational boating more convenient.


C-43 Reservoir

Caloosahatchee Estuary

The C-43 Reservoir is a major CERP project designed to store and control water discharges to the Caloosahatchee estuary.


Caloosahatchee Oxbows

History & Preservation

Calusa Waterkeeper has been working to monitor and preserve historic oxbows in the upper Caloosahatchee River.


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