Monitoring water quality of the river

October 2019 – Since the passage of the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, commonly known as the Clean Water Act, water quality in Hillsborough County has greatly improved and has supported the recovery of seagrasses within the bay. The success is due to various efforts supported by water quality monitoring stations located throughout the county.

At the September meeting of the River Technical Advisory Council, Tom Ash, Assistant Director of the Water Management Division, Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), discussed the agency’s water quality monitoring program and its contribution to the success of the region’s overall water quality. The department utilizes over 200 water quality monitoring stations throughout Hillsborough County and Tampa Bay to identify impaired waters, pollution sources, and assist in evaluating restoration efforts.

The collated data from these stations show water quality in the Hillsborough River is significantly better than when the program began in 1972. Water quality is best during the dry season months of January through March due to the lack of pollutant laden runoff. The accumulation of nutrients and debris during these months is washed away and enter local waterways during the wet season from July through October. Although the influx of nutrients and debris negatively affects Hillsborough River’s water quality, it is still significantly better overall when compared to samples taken 30 years ago.

The EPC’s collaboration with local municipalities assisted in the recovery through the identification of areas of concern. Information provided by the water quality monitoring program allows municipalities to implement infrastructure that helps reduce the amount of debris and nutrient runoff entering the river. The program ensures the river’s water quality continues to improve, promoting the enhancement of the river as a recreational and environmental asset to the municipalities it flows through.

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