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Worsening Soil Health Contributes to Florida’s Water Problems


A recent op-ed in the Palm Beach Post highlights one of the overlooked contributing factors in South Florida’s worsening water quality problem: the lack of knowledge among its residents of the soil systems in the area and how human behavior and development has impacted them.

As Rachelle Berger points out, the soil and water systems in Florida are intrinsically linked. Any environmental impacts felt in the sprawling soil systems will directly affect the water quality as well. The soil beneath your feet in Florida is responsible for nutrient and waste product recycling, decomposition, and the regulation of our natural water systems.

soil and florida state sign

Berger is a  graduate student at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Everglades Research and Education Center. Her studies have illuminated many common issues in residential and commercial areas of Florida, which all boil down to a lack of knowledge or intentional neglect on behalf of urban developers.

Nitrate Fertilizers in Florida Soil

Major topographical changes can cause permanent shifts in the function and viability of a soil system. In South Florida rapid urbanization has led to an influx of residential construction projects that alter or destroy vast stretches of soil. The increased use of harmful chemicals on Florida’s crops also threatens the soil’s ability to absorb and neutralize synthetic chemicals.

Agricultural runoff from nitrate fertilizers and animal manure can make its way through soil systems and infect water reservoirs, leading to elevated levels of nitrates in your drinking water. Nitrates can be especially deadly for pregnant women and newborn infants. High concentrations of methemoglobin in your blood, which will form if you drink nitrates, can lead to “blue baby syndrome” or even death.   

Well water is especially susceptible to this kind of contamination, as city officials do not regularly test private wells. Owners of private wells should complete a water test at least once a year to monitor the level of nitrates and other potential hazards in your water, especially if you live near a farm, manufacturing plant, or other source of industrial or agricultural runoff.

How to Protect Florida Soil and Your Drinking Water

There are many actionable steps residents of Florida can take to preserve the quality of the soil on their property. Berger states that many homeowners are not aware of how much fertilizer to apply to their lawns and how to irrigate properly. Berger emphasizes using as little fertilizer as possible to minimize the effect on drinking water quality and on marine life.

Over-irrigation, like irrigating your lawn before a rain storm, can lead to flooding. Flood water can also breach public drinking water supplies, carrying harmful fertilizer along with it. Following best practices in your own neighborhood will help keep your soil healthy and therby reduce the impact your actions have on your drinking water quality.

In many parts of South Florida these practices will not be enough to reverse the damage to the public drinking water that has already occurred. Residents of Florida should schedule an in-home service appointment with a Pelican Water professional. Our water filtration experts will test your water and give you a tour of our mobile showroom to match you with the best water filter to reduce the specific contaminants that have found their way into your drinking water.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter