Originally published in The News-Press on March 23, 2021 by Chad Gillis

Coastal urbanization is the top factor driving pollution from the Tampa Bay area south to Collier County, and the water quality in many of those counties declined over a recent three-year period. Those were some of the findings from a report released last week by a local environmental group.

Calusa Waterkeeper published an assessment of Southwest Florida waters that is based on Florida Department of Environmental Protection records and databases, and the report concludes that, for the most part, Southwest Florida’s ailing waterways are not getting any cleaner.

“We wanted a regional outlook, so we had seven coastal counties and we added Glades and Hendry because they’re in our Calusa Waterkeeper project boundary, and it kind of compares coastal areas to inland areas,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. “The land uses contrast, so the coastal counties are predominately urban growth and Glades and Hendry are predominantly agriculture. Manatee (County) has a combination of urban and ag lands, so it’s a good mix of uses and a variety of waterbodies involved.”

Cassani said the report focuses on water quality from 2018 through 2020.

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