New report highlights Roberts Bay as part of national roadmap to clean water

Media Contacts
Jenna Stevens

Josh Chetwynd

Investments in Florida’s and America’s water infrastructure can help solve water challenges

Environment Florida Research and Policy Center

St. Petersburg, FL – In Florida and across America, the systems that should manage wastewater and stormwater are outdated and failing, according to a new report from Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. Roberts Bay, which is prized for boating, fishing, and wildlife viewing, flows into several of Sarasota County’s white sand beaches but is at risk of nitrogen pollution as a result of failing clean water infrastructure.

The new study, which comes out as Congress negotiates water infrastructure funding for the coming fiscal year as part of the federal budget, offers a path to cleaner water that can be achieved with investment. The report calls for Congress to support states’ efforts to bring our nation’s water quality up to standards. This clean water funding should prioritize nature based infrastructure, a cost effective and innovative way to trap and treat dirty water while providing beautiful outdoor spaces and wildlife habitat. 

“From Roberts Bay to Puget Sound, one thing is clear: investing in water infrastructure works,” said Jenna Stevens, State Director for Environment Florida. “Across Florida we read stories about red tide, sewage overflows, and beach closures. Unfortunately, we can expect more of these stories as our infrastructure ages without the updates it needs. But when our nation applies the right resources, we can fix these problems.”

Entitled, A Path to Cleaner Water, the report shows how investing in water infrastructure brings cleaner water to communities across America. Specifically, the group looked at successful and innovative projects in each of the ten U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regions. Despite the geographical differences between regions and states, it’s clear how clean water investments can clean and protect America’s waterways.

The report highlights Roberts Bay in a case study showing the value of investing in clean water projects. The water infrastructure improvements resulted in an estimated annual reduction of 267 pounds of nitrogen and led to Roberts Bays removal from the list of impaired waterways in 2010. However, in recent years, nitrogen pollution in the bay is again on the rise. It is clear that more infrastructure investment is needed to make Roberts Bay clean.

“It’s fantastic to see that Roberts Bay has seen past benefits from investment, but the work is far from over. In Roberts Bay and beyond we should be able to know that every waterway in Florida, no matter its location or size, is safe and clean,” Stevens noted. 

To upgrade these systems and protect clean water, Congress will have to make a substantial investment, according to the report. They have until December 11 to negotiate a compromise on this and other issues in the federal budget. Elected officials are currently negotiating water infrastructure provisions, including the $11 billion House spending bill aimed at solving this problem.

“Not only is investing in clean water a good idea for our waterways and our environment, it also boasts bipartisan support.” Stevens said. “We saw proof of this earlier this year when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced draft legislation with bipartisan support to boost water infrastructure spending. The support of clean water can bring Congress together, and show unity in a time of great division. Senator Rubio sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and has a unique opportunity to lead this.”