fertilizer blog

In Support of a Monroe County Fertilizer Ordinance

Miami Waterkeeper views fertilizer ordinances as key legislative tools in protecting our waterways. Kelly Cox, Miami Waterkeeper’s General Counsel, spoke at Monroe County’s Board of County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in support of a county-wide fertilizer ordinance for the Florida Keys.

Her presentation can be found at the link below, beginning when 38:32 minutes remain in the recording.


Speaking on behalf of Commissioner Forster, Kelly outlined the need for a fertilizer ordinance, its positive impacts, and specific policy recommendations from Miami Waterkeeper.

Fertilizer can help plants grow but most people overuse it, and the excess nutrients can end up in South Florida’s extremely sensitive waterways. While Monroe County doesn’t currently suffer from regular algae blooms and fish kills, limiting fertilizer application is one of the most important steps to reducing nutrient pollution that can lead to these events. Monroe County’s economy depends on clean water. Fisheries, tourism, and recreation create billions of dollars per year for the local economy.

This discussion takes place in the wake of last summer’s devastating fish kill in Biscayne Bay, which scientists have determined was caused by significant nutrient pollution. Studies have shown that chlorophyll a levels are on the rise in the waters off the Florida Keys, a red flag that algae blooms could be on their way. Monroe County should take preventive action now by adopting a fertilizer ordinance to address this source of nutrient pollution before the rainy summer season begins.

Miami Waterkeeper recommends prohibiting the use of fertilizer between the rainy months of June and September in order to prevent nutrient-rich stormwater runoff from entering waterways. An ordinance should also require a setback of at least 15 feet between application of fertilizer and waterways or storm drains. Fertilizer, when used, should be composed of at least 50% slow-release nitrogen fertilizer mix. Florida’s waters are especially sensitive to phosphorus, so Miami Waterkeeper recommends prohibiting the use of any fertilizer containing phosphorus.

In order for this legislation to be effective, it must be accompanied by an education and awareness campaign. Miami Waterkeeper has produced educational resources alongside municipalities such as the City of Miami, Village of Key Biscayne, North Bay Village, City of Miami Beach, and City of Coral Gables to help residents understand their role in following the fertilizer ordinance.

The basis of Monroe County’s culture and economy is its clean water. Taking action now can preserve it for generations to come. For more information on fertilizer, please visit: https://www.miamiwaterkeeper.org/fertilizer

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