The population of the Inland Bays watershed is growing, and the landscape is rapidly changing from farms and forests to residential and commercial development. Much of the development is concentrated around waterways where its potential impact on water quality is greatest.

Since the last report, development increased another 7.8 square miles (11%), replacing agricultural lands, upland forests, and wetlands.

With development comes more roads, parking lots and rooftops that generate polluted runoff to the Bays. The watershed as a whole has now exceeded 10% coverage by these impervious surfaces—a tipping point at which water quality has been found to degrade in estuaries. Balancing this is a reduction in the application of fertilizers that occurs when cropland is converted to other land uses.

Activities to protect natural habitats in the watershed have nearly stalled since the previous report was published. Salt marshes are disappearing at higher rates. Funding and incentives for conservation, enhancement of forested buffers, and wetlands protection are needed.

The estimated volume of water moving in and out of the Bays through the Indian River Inlet increased by at least 11% since 1988, likely contributing to observed improvements in water quality in open Bay waters. What these changes mean long-term for the watershed is uncertain.

What is certain as population growth and urbanization continues is that the most effective technology for controlling storm water runoff and treating wastewater will be needed to protect the Bays. 

Read more about Watershed Condition (PDF) »


Posted Under: 2016 SotB