We have arrived at the tipping point for the Indian River Lagoon.

Pushed any further, it will collapse into an algae-dominated, pollution-laden system that is unhealthy for fish, dolphins and humans alike. It’s not too late though. With your help we can tip the balance back toward clean water, filled with healthy and abundant wildlife.

It takes a community. If everyone in our community commits to changing their individual actions to better our lagoon, then together we will preserve one of our greatest resources.


In the absence of significant industry, the documented decline in the health of the Indian River Lagoon can be traced primarily to nonpoint source pollution – this means that there’s not one source to blame; each of our actions (or inactions) plays a role in impacting the quality of the water in our lagoon. Storm water runoff, sewage spills and leaky septic tanks are just a few of the suspected sources of pollution.

Living Consciously for the Lagoon

Most water pollution originates on land and has harmful effects on wildlife, fisheries, recreation and water supplies.

Here are some simple things you can do to help stop the damage and clean up our waters.

Chemicals, trash, grass clippings, pet waste and fertilizers should never run out of your yard or enter the storm drains. Remember this water eventually leads to your waterways.

Grass clippings should stay out of streets, ditches, canals, and storm drains, which all eventually lead to the lagoon. Keep the clippings for mulch or compost. Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and additional nutrients remain in the grass clippings, and these chemicals and nutrients can be transferred from the clippings to the aquatic environment.

– Green your lawn with out increasing growth

Apply an iron source instead of nitrogen-based fertilizers. This promotes a rich green color but does not increase your lawn maintenance needs. Only slow release fertilizers should be used. It should include potassium with little to no phosphorous. Remember anything that causes grass to grow will also cause the algae in the lagoon to flourish.


– Do not over fertilize

Observe local blackout periods and only fertilize when grass is actively growing. Use the charts provided by the manufacturer to ensure the proper quantity of fertilizer is applied to the yard. Often in winter months, grass growth will slow dramatically and will require little to no fertilizer. Also, never fertilize within 10 feet of a body of water. Find out if your community is using reuse water that may be high in nutrients. If so, you can save money and help save the lagoon by not fertilizing.


– Avoid fertilizer that contains herbicides (weed killer) or insecticides

Use herbicides and insecticides only when and where the chemicals are needed. Alternatively, there are inexpensive natural pest and weed deterrents available. Natural alternatives to chemical pest control may be found at: http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htm


– Do not fertilize before a heavy rain

The majority of the fertilizer will be swept away with the rain before the grass can utilize it. These excessive nutrients harm our lagoon.

This vegetation reduces erosion and filters a portion of sediment, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides from irrigation or rainwater before it enters the lagoon. It also provides essential habitat for birds and bees.

Read more here: Buffered Shorelines

Click here for an informative document on native plants from our friends at The Moorings.

Include berms and swales parallel to the shoreline of canals, drainage ditches or other bodies of water. This slows the flow of water from your lawn into these areas, which ultimately reduces pollution and excessive sediment from entering the lagoon and keeps the water on your lawn for a longer duration of time.

Collect rainwater that flows from your roof, through a debris filter and into a large barrel. Then use it to water your plants or even your yard. Use a tight fitting or mesh lid to mosquito-proof your rain barrels, and don’t forget to mesh the runoff spout as well.

More oil reaches the oceans each year as a result of leaking automobiles and other non-point sources than was spilled in Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez. Ensure that your vehicle is not leaking oil on to our roadways. Also, properly dispose of any waste oil by depositing it in storage containers found at local automotive supply stores or at waste transfer stations.

– Make sure that each piece of trash, even pieces as small as cigarette butts end up in a proper recycle or disposal facility.

Forty-four percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.


– Don’t flush unwanted medicines down the toilet.

These can pass through treatment plants and septic systems directly into the lagoon where they may negatively impact the health, reproduction and behavior of the animals living there. Either take your unwanted medicines to a collection program or mix them with an unpalatable substance like kitty litter or coffee grounds and seal them in a leak-proof container that can be thrown out with the trash.

These zones don’t just keep manatees safe, they help reduce the sediment that impairs photosynthesis in sea grass, a vital component to our lagoon’s ecosystem. They also help prevent excess erosion to delicate shorelines where native vegetation is propagating.

A leaky septic system delivers excessive and undesired nutrients and bacteria into the Indian River Lagoon causing toxic algae blooms and other water quality problems. Have your septic tank pumped regularly (typically every four years), and request a tank inspection each time the tank is pumped.

A leaky sewer pipe can drain thousands of gallons of waste into the lagoon. While sewer pipes are regularly inspected by city and county officials, they are not inspected daily. The sooner a leak is caught and repaired, the less harmful the effects will be on the lagoon. Report any strange or unusual smells near sewer pipes to area authorities so they can ensure everything is in correct working order.

Participate in community and state government. Let your lawmakers know about your concerns for the future of the Indian River Lagoon, support legislation that helps to restore this vital ecosystem, and educate those around you about how their actions impact our lagoon.

Sign up for the ORCA newsletter to stay informed of the latest lagoon research, legislation, and other ways you can help. Sign up for our ORCA eNewsletter.

Commit your time to improving our lagoon. ORCA offers many ways for both experienced and inexperienced volunteers to make a difference. Learn more about becoming an ORCA volunteer by visiting our Get Involved page.

Your donations enable ORCA to continue monitoring and mapping the water quality of the Indian River Lagoon, research and implement lagoon preservation solutions, and educating our community about how their actions impact this unique ecosystem. Just like in living consciously for the lagoon, each of our donations, no matter the size, make a difference. Donate now.

Every dollar you contribute goes directly to support advances in technological research, conservation science and educational programs.

ORCA is a non-profit, non-governmental conservation organization tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) IRS.
Contributions are tax-deductible for those who itemize their deductions.