Pump station project keeping nutrients out of Indian River Lagoon

Water flowing out of a large black pipe

Pumps at the west end of Palm Bay are redirecting stormwater to the Sawgrass Lakes Water Management Area for treatment. All flows previously went to the Indian River Lagoon.

Water flowing out of a large black pipe

Pumps at the west end of Palm Bay are redirecting stormwater to the Sawgrass Lakes Water Management Area for treatment. All flows previously went to the Indian River Lagoon.

PALM BAY, Fla., March 22, 2019 — Five years after construction, the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Sawgrass Lake Water Management Area (SLWMA) – part of Phase 1 of the C-1 Flow Restoration Project (C-1 Project) – continues to provide outstanding benefit to both the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River by restoring previously diverted stormwater flows back to their natural basin.

“Restoring flows to the St. Johns River reduces the amount of suspended sediments and nutrients discharged to the Indian River Lagoon,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “These reductions help improve the water quality and ecosystem health of the lagoon. Water quality is improved through the wetland treatment, with flow restoration having the added benefit of putting clean freshwater back into the St. Johns River.”

For almost a century, Canal 1 shunted stormwater away from its natural destination, the St. Johns River, and instead directed it to the Indian River Lagoon, straining the estuarine environment with nutrients, sediments and unnatural volumes of freshwater. The multi-phase C-1 Project restores a portion of these flows back to the St. Johns River, after being naturally filtered to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. Natural filtration for Phase 1 of the C-1 Project occurs though a 2,000-acre treatment system known as the Sawgrass Lake Water Management Area (SLWMA).

After interruptions in early years due to pump equipment upgrades, canal bank stabilization and other related work – as well as two hurricanes – the C-1 Project really hit its stride in 2018, far exceeding projected long-term averages for flow restoration. During 2018, the C-1 Project restored more than 20 billion gallons of flow to the SLWMA, an average of 55 million gallons a day. Based on water quality samples in the canals at the pump stations, roughly 13,000 pounds of total phosphorus and 148,000 pounds of total nitrogen were removed from the Canal 1 system in 2018, thus preventing these nutrients from entering and causing harm to the Indian River Lagoon.

Total costs for Phase 1, including design, construction and land purchases, is $18.6 million, with Brevard County contributing $480,000 in pump upgrades. The district invested an additional $2.5 million in bank stabilization and related improvements between 2015 and 2017. Phase 2, which will include a reservoir and pump station, is estimated to cost $26.1 million.