What does START do to help reduce excess nutrients in our waterways?

Nutrients in the waterway

START has a three-pronged approach to help reduce excess nutrients:

1.    Public Education Program: START provides a variety of educational materials to inform the community about the importance of reducing excess nutrients in our coastal waters including:

  • Website at start1.org
  • Monthly E-Newsletter
  • Activity Brochure
  • PSA’s for local TV stations
  • Red Tide & You presentation
  • Healthy Pond presentation

The Red Tide & You presentation answers the following five questions:

  1. What causes red tide blooms?
  2. Why are they so prevalent here on the Sun Coast?
  3. What is being done to control red tide?
  4. What is START doing to control excess nutrients in our waterways?
  5. How can you help reduce your nutrient footprint that feeds red tide?

To arrange a screening of Red Tide & You or our Healthy Pond presentation for your organization, contact START at Colleen@start1.org.

2.    Water Quality Outreach Program: START stays in contact with federal, state and local policy makers to encourage them to fund nutrient reducing programs including:

A.     Finding a viable solution to keep the polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee out of our waterways

B.     Requesting more funding support for our local governments to be able to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants, convert more septic systems to sewers and upgrade inefficient stormwater ponds

Wastewater Treatment Plant

3.     Nutrient Control Programs: START forms partnerships with other organizations to install and maintain the following nutrient reduction projects:

A.     Oysters are an important natural nutrient reducing species as they can filter from 9 to 50 gallons of seawater every day. The Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal (GCORR) Program saves shells from restaurant diners and transports them to a storage area where they are cured, bagged by volunteers and then placed in local waterways to build new oyster reefs.

Click here -> Learn about the award-winning GCORR program.

Volunteers with oyster bags

B.   The Southern Quahog clam is native to our waters and is also an important water filtering part of our marine environment. These clams typically can filter from 9 to 12 gallons of water a day, create furrows that promote seagrass growth and are very resistant to red tide. START continues its ongoing funding for Sarasota Bay Watch’s Clam Seeding Program that has now seeded over one million clams in Sarasota Bay.

Click here -> For more details about the Clam Seeding environmental program.

Volunteers with oyster bagsC.   Unfortunately, despite the efforts of many organizations and people  nitrogen, the primary food source for Harmful Algal Blooms like red tide, has doubled in Sarasota Bay since 2000. One of the main sources of this alarming increase is stormwater. As a result, START is expanding its efforts with programs and projects that help reduce the excess nutrients in stormwater. Our funding support for the innovative four-part stormwater filtration system at Bay Park in Sarasota with its Denitrification Barrier, oyster reef restoration, clam seeding and installation of reef balls will annually filter 72 million gallons of stormwater from the 53-acre site before it runs into The Bay.

START is a founding member of the Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF), a coalition of nonprofits that plans and plants high-performance microforests on small parcels of land not slated for further development. Microforests are dense, thicket-like stands of diverse native plant life that intercept and divert significant quantities of stormwater that would otherwise transport excess nutrients into our waterways. Using a highly engineered approach developed by Japanese Botanist Akira Miyawaki, SURF volunteers lay down a simulated and highly absorbent forest floor of cardboard covered with woodchips and install three saplings per meter to create shade stress that prompts fast growth and heavy water absorption. SURF’s New College partner models the stormwater diversion so we can calculate a microforest’s benefit to the Bay. Every microforest is planted in a team effort that teaches our volunteers about the importance of urban forests in promoting coastal water quality, reducing erosion, developing new habitat for wildlife displaced by urbanization and sequestering carbon as a hedge against climate change.


Volunteers Planting a Microforest

For 2022, we are especially pleased to announce a major expansion in our work to help improve neighborhood stormwater ponds through an important new three-year grant from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and continued support from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Chiles-Moore grant. The increased funding will allow START to reach more local communities with advice and funding to help enhance their ailing stormwater ponds.

Ailing Stormwater Pond

Ailing Stormwater Pond

Healthy Stormwater Pond

Healthy Stormwater Pond

To learn more about START’s Healthy Pond Program Click Here ->