Southwest Florida’s communities heavily rely on tourism and real estate. Many residents work in those industries and are used to managing the seasonality of the industries. This year, in addition to the off-season slowdown, residents also had to manage the impact from red tide and blue-green algae. The area experiences red tide and blue-green algae every year, but at a much lower severity than it was seen in 2018.
Red-tide occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico and is much impacted by the water temperatures and currents in the Gulf. Blue-green algae is said to be man-made and communities in Southwest Florida hold the water releases from Lake Okeechobee responsible for the severe blue-green algae issues in the canals. Much discussion is on finding the one cause, and blame is on farmers, agriculture, and water from north of Lake Okeechobee. Investigations also show the fertilizers and septic tanks play a role in feeding the algae as well. As of now, it is not possible to identify one true causation and much more research must be undertaken. Because of this year’s severity, the community has accomplished one goal – working together to be heard and to find solutions in a public-private collaborative effort.