The quality of our local surface waters has a direct influence on the Gulf Coast way of life. Therefore, we cannot assume everything is and all always will be fine. Surface waters need protection to prevent degradation. The Clean Water Act provides the foundation for state and local water quality programs. Surface waters across the State of Florida are classified into categories based on designated uses. Each of the six classes of surface waters in the state have corresponding water quality standards. Surface water quality standards for the State of Florida are codified in rule 62-302, Florida Administrative code. These standards are set for various parameters including bacteria, nutrients and metals. Except for shellfish propagation areas, all local waters are identified as Class III. Surface water quality standards for Class III waters are intended to be protective of fish consumption, recreation, and propagation and maintenance of a healthy, well-balanced population of fish and wildlife. Waters not meeting the corresponding surface water criteria are labeled as “impaired.”
The status of individual waterbodies in Florida are assessed every two years based on available, credible data. Escambia County collects much of the data used locally in these assessments. The Water Quality and Land Management Division collects samples at over 50 unique surface water stations. Stations are monitored monthly for fecal indicator bacteria (Enterococci or E. coli) and field parameters (temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, dissolved oxygen saturation, specific conductance, salinity, and turbidity). At least 40 of these stations are also being monitored every other month for nutrients (Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, nitrate-nitrite, total nitrogen, total phosphorus), residuals (total suspended solids), and chlorophyll-a. Samples are analyzed by the Escambia County Water Quality Laboratory.
Surface water quality data generated by Escambia County is routinely uploaded to the Watershed Information Network. WIN is a centralized environmental data management platform managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. All WIN data is available for download from the FDEP website. Escambia County has also recently launched a user-friendly online data portal to provide the public with direct access routinely collected county data. A link to the Escambia County Surface Water Quality Public Data Portal is located on this page.