The Bear Lakes are in Trouble ...
and it is lowering your property value!
Florida Lakewatch and the BLPA have been monitoring the Bear lakes since 1991 and we are sad to report that we have documented some serious degradation, especially in the last two years. What is really sad is that it is preventable. We just have not taken the steps necessary to prevent it. The degradation, both of the lakes and your property value, can be attributed to one thing ...FERTILIZER.
When fertilizer is used anywhere within our watershed community (about 1,000 acres), a portion of it typically runs off into the Bear lakes. The result is the same that residents intend for their lawn... it turns lakes green. Lakes are very sensitive to fertilizer. It takes only a tiny amount to grow the algae that quickly turns water green. (Remember how fertilizer polluted Lake Apopka?) To prove it to yourself, take two glasses of clean tap water and put them on the windowsill, then put the smallest amount of fertilizer that you can see in one of the glasses and stir it in. It will turn green within a few days and the one without fertilizer will remain clear. Seriously, do it yourself, don't take my word for it.
The degradation we have measured is apparent to all who swim or ski on the Bear lakes. Eight years ago (1997) Bear Lake had an average water clarity of 18.5 feet. Over the last year it has averaged only 9.5 feet. Chlorophyll, a measure of the green algae in the water, averaged 1.8 and now it is 4.5, a 250% increase! There is no doubt; it is the fertilizer that feeds the algae that reduces water clarity ... and property values.
The individual algae cells live for about two weeks after which they dye and fall to the bottom where they decompose, consuming oxygen, creating muck where it had been clean sand, and releasing nutrients for another crop of algae.
Another indication that the lake is rapidly getting worse is our loss of animals like Mayflies and Brook Silversides both of which prefer clear water with clean sand bottoms. They have been virtually eliminated in the Bear lakes in just the past few years. In their place we now have swarms of Blind mosquitoes. These are aquatic midges commonly found in polluted waters. It is like you are in Sanford when they emerge from the lake Monroe and cover everything! Blind mosquitoes will not help our property values.
Seminole county has been both good and bad for our lakes. Good by virtue of their having paved many gravel roads that were adding sediment and turbidity to the lakes. Bad in that they have not taken the lead and installed proper swales and berms, outlawed the use of phosphorous fertilizers like they have in other states with clean lakes, nor have they instituted a storm water tax. The storm water tax is popular in many parts of the USA because it is the only fair way of having everyone that contributes storm water in the watershed pay for the storm water treatment.
Clearly this is not a 'lake front resident' issue. The pollution (including the fertilizer) comes from the entire watershed. We all know, water runs downhill. A storm water tax would pay for watershed drainage improvements like swales and berms as well as 'in-lake' remediation such as alum treatments to restore the lakes water quality and clarity.
Here is what you can do to improve all of our property values: Consider the lakes and not just your lawn ...Do not use fertilizer, especially granular type which continuously dissolves in a heavy rain and is carried along with the runoff water into the street where it then flows into the lakes. If you must use fertilizer in trouble spots, use zero phosphorous fertilizer. Phosphorous is the middle number like 10-0-8. Many of the lawn service companies now use zero phosphorous fertilizer because it is not needed by the lawn and damages the lakes. Please follow their example. Keep our lakes clean and clear... and your property values high.