New pond program aims to improve water quality in Sarasota Bay, reduce red tide
A new program plans to help Sarasota County neighborhoods upgrade their drainage ponds so they can better filter nutrients that can feed red tide.
The local nonprofit START, or Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, launched the program at a Wednesday press conference overlooking the blue water of the bay. The program is known as a regional Healthy Ponds Collaborative, and most of its funding is coming from a $250,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.
Stormwater flows from neighborhood stormwater holding ponds to other retention areas, creeks or rivers and eventually reaches Sarasota Bay. That stormwater is responsible for 65% of the nitrogen in Sarasota Bay, according to START. Karenia Brevis, the algae responsible for red tide in Florida, feeds on chemicals like nitrogen.
Ponds are one way to reduce the amount of these chemicals going into the bay, as they filter stormwater. However, the ponds in Sarasota County only operate at 40-60% efficiency in removing the nutrients that contribute to water pollution, according to a Barancik Foundation press release.
The Healthy Ponds Collaborative will help neighborhoods upgrade their ponds. The collaborative will provide neighborhood groups with expert consultants who can advise them on how to improve their ponds, and it will also pay for some of the cost of those improvements, according to Teri Hansen, the president and CEO of the Barancik Foundation.