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PALATKA The St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, local government partners and stakeholder groups celebrated the installation of new “real-time” water quality monitoring stations in the Indian River Lagoon with an event today at Titusville Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier.

The monitoring stations, installed at the pier and four other locations in the lagoon, contain sensors that collect real-time data on water quality parameters, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, plankton, salinity and water temperature. Data flows continuously from the monitors to the District’s telemetry network located at the District’s headquarters in Palatka.

“DEP and its partners are again demonstrating their commitment to identifying the lagoon’s problems and implementing solutions,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, the Water Management District and local stakeholders, we are moving toward the shared goal of a healthy lagoon and restoration of this treasured ecosystem.”

DEP provided $746,000 for 15 water quality sensors, five of which are located in the lagoon. The District designed and constructed protective housings for the monitors, established suitable locations for placement in the lagoon and is responsible for regular maintenance of the equipment. Insights gleaned from the new data will help in managing lagoon resources and identifying projects to improve the health of the lagoon.

“Protecting the health of the Indian River Lagoon is one of the District’s top priorities,” said Hans Tanzler III, St. Johns River Water Management District executive director. “We no longer have to rely on hand sampling to gather data. These monitors provide “real-time” access to water quality data, which better enables us to correlate events, and identify the sources of nutrient concentrations and where they settle in the lagoon. We then use that information to identify the most beneficial restoration projects for the lagoon system.”

The Indian River Lagoon is a diverse, shallow-water estuary stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s east coast from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to the southern boundary of Martin County. Widespread algal blooms appeared in the lagoon in 2011, followed by brown tide blooms in 2012 and 2013. Approximately 47,000 acres of seagrasses were lost, a reduction of about 60 percent of the lagoon’s total seagrass coverage. Although the cause of the blooms cannot be linked to any one particular factor, excessive nitrogen and phosphorus in the lagoon may have contributed to the situation.

The new water quality monitors are part of a larger, multi-agency project to gather data and identify additional projects to improve the health of the lagoon. The District, DEP, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, local governments and educational institutions are individually and collectively working to find the cause of the superbloom and to identify what, if anything, can be done in the future to limit or avoid a similar event. The various partners are investigating the possible causes of the blooms and developing strategies to reduce their magnitude, duration and frequency.