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Why the Indian River Lagoon Matters to All of Us

Discover the many reasons why the lagoon is a community treasure.

The Indian River Lagoon occupies 40 percent of Florida’s east coast, extending more than 156 miles from Ponce de Leon Inlet to Jupiter Inlet near West Palm Beach. It spans six counties — including Brevard, Volusia, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach.1 — and 39 cities.2

Nearly half its length and 71 percent of its area falls in Brevard County, making it particularly important to our local residents.1 The Indian River Lagoon influences jobs, property values, tourism, and recreation, to name a few. Additionally, it’s home to a unique array of plants and animals, who depend on its water quality for survival.

In the past decade, the lagoon has also become home to pollutants that create excessive algae blooms. Those blooms suck up oxygen, which leaves aquatic life without enough to breathe. As a result, massive amounts of fish, sea turtles, dolphins and manatees die unnecessarily.

But there is some good news.

By changing small actions you already take each day, you can help to save the lagoon — and the animals and economy that depend on it.

castnet fishing off pier

Read on to learn more about why the Indian River Lagoon matters to us all and the role you can play in preserving it.

The Importance of the Lagoon By the Numbers

The Indian River Lagoon occupies 156 miles – that's 40% of Florida's east coast.

indian river lagoon 6 counties 39 cities

lagoon biodiversity4,300 Species of
plants & animals

4,300 species of plants and animals live in the lagoon watershed.1

lagoon economic output$7.6 billion
economic output

$7.6 billion was the total annual economic output or value received from the lagoon in 2014.5

lagoon rate of return33-to-1
rate of return

Every $1 invested in lagoon restoration returns $33 to the regional economy every year.2

blue heron with fish near mangroves

HOME TO THOUSANDS OF PLANTS & ANIMALS

The Indian River Lagoon has a diverse ecosystem, made up roughly 4,300 species. In fact, it’s one of the most biodiverse places in the continental U.S.2 When one species is impacted within an ecosystem, it impacts the others, like a domino effect.

Since 2011, the lagoon has experienced increased algae blooms, which has destroyed more than 60 percent of seagrasses.3 One of the most important plants in the lagoon, seagrasses are a major food source for many of the animals who live there, including manatees. Seagrass is also valuable to the lagoon because it removes nutrients and stabilizes sediments, improving water quality.4 The growing habits of seagrass changes based on the health of the lagoon. This provides an indication as to how the lagoon is doing and — as of late — it’s in a dire state.

A record number of manatees, pelicans, dolphins, shorebirds, and fish have died due to pollutants in the lagoon. The lagoon has lost roughly half of the native species that once lived there.1

kayaking in turkey creek

INFLUENCES PUBLIC HEALTH & LIFESTYLE

Water quality isn’t just essential to aquatic life. It’s critical to protecting public health. Roughly 1.6 million residents live near the lagoon, which spans 39 cities.2

When bodies of water, like the lagoon, become polluted, it can diminish quality of life, not to mention introduce health and environmental risks.

Stormwater carries fertilizers, household chemicals, dirt, trash, grass and plant clippings, pet waste, heavy metals, and other pollutants into storm drains and canals. That water eventually ends up draining, unfiltered, into the Indian River Lagoon.

Those materials are a detriment to aquatic life and public health.

cape canaveral tourism

ECONOMIC DRIVER FOR BREVARD COUNTY

America’s coasts are vital to the economy, supplying habitat to more than 75 percent of our nation’s commercial fish and 80 to 90 percent of the recreational fish catch. As a result, restoring and keeping our coasts clean has a direct impact on our economy and job creation. For every million dollars invested, at least 30 jobs are created, which is twice as many as the oil and gas and road constructions industries combined.2

Nearly half of the Indian River Lagoon’s length is in Brevard County, which is why its health is particularly significant to our community’s economy.

$7.6 billion economic value

In 2014, the total annual economic output or value received from the Indian River Lagoon was roughly $7.6 billion, according to the “Indian River Lagoon Economic Valuation Update.”

That doesn’t even include the estimated $934 million in annualized real estate value added for property located on or near the Indian River Lagoon.5

In November 2016, our community voted for a ½ cent sales tax, which would help to raise nearly $303 million in a decade for lagoon restoration efforts.1

That money is expected to have a great return on investment. Each $1 invested in lagoon restoration is expected to return $33 to the regional economy every year.2 That means it’s not just a great investment for the environment. It’s a financially viable one, too.

VIEW THE SAVE OUR LAGOON PROJECT MAP

Help Save the Indian River Lagoon

Many everyday choices impact the health of the lagoon, whether realized or not.

Take the fertilizer you use on your lawn, for instance. Fertilizer typically contains phosphorus and nitrogen, which fuels excessive growth of algae. Rain water washes these nutrient pollutants down storm drains and, eventually, into the lagoon. Once there, it smothers natural vegetation, depleting oxygen and resulting in dead fish. By simply switching to a zero-phosphorus and at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen fertilizer, you can help to reduce pollutants in the lagoon.

Want more ways to help?

Visit the pages below to find simple actions you can take each day to protect the lagoon.
Plus, each time you make a lagoon-friendly choice, you can earn points that add up to discounts at local business who support lagoon restoration efforts. You can save money — and the lagoon — at the same time. How’s that for a win-win?

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BECOME LAGOON LOYAL

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SOURCES:
1 “How Valuable is the Indian River Lagoon?” restoreourshores.org, Brevard Zoo, https://restoreourshores.org/importance.
2 “Importance.” onelagoon.org, One Lagoon, https://onelagoon.org/importance.
3 “History of the Indian River Lagoon.” helpthelagoon.org, Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, https://helpthelagoon.org/education/history-indian-river-lagoon.
4 “Living Resources.” onelagoon.org, One Lagoon, https://onelagoon.org/living-resources.
5 “Indian River Lagoon Economic Valuation Update.” Prepared by East Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, 26 Aug. 2016, http://ros.skyadinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/FinalReportIRL08_26_2016.pdf.