Water Quality Efforts

Clean local waterways are critical to our community and surrounding areas. Maintaining and improving water quality is essential to protect public health, quality of life, fisheries, wildlife and watersheds and to ensure opportunities for public recreation and economic development.

The Martin County Board of County Commissioners continues to invest significantly in this crucial effort and is a leader in the development of water quality improvement projects in our region.

No other county in the state of Florida has invested as much as Martin County for Everglades restoration.

Accomplishments by the Numbers

  • Over 20 years constructing stormwater and water quality improvement projects
  • Completion of 42 stormwater treatment projects including 2 hybrid wetland treatment technology projects, reservoirs and water quality retrofits and improvement projects
  • 7 new stormwater treatment areas (STAs) in planning and design phases
  • Reduced over 70,000 pounds of total nitrogen (TN) per year and over 15,000 pounds of total phosphorus per year from entering the St. Lucie River and Estuary through water quality projects
  • 15,000+ acres within the St. Lucie River watershed are now treated prior to discharge to our creeks and rivers
  • Expended $150 million in total project costs to meet state mandated water quality targets; approximately 50% of those funds were from state and federal grant sources.
  • Cooperative acquisition of over 70,000 acres that are part of the conservation lands inventory
  • Implemented integrated pest management (IPM) plan in 2019 to ensure environmentally-sensitive pest control
  • Enacted fertilizer ordinance in 2011 to regulate the application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Completion of nearly 3,500 septic to sewer conversions,  with another 4,000 conversions underway and an additional 3,000+ conversions in the planning phase
  • Extended sewer service to 2,000+ residential properties by establishment of Municipal Service Benefit Units.
  • Removed and demolished 70 package wastewater treatment plants, 53 of which were determined to be a threat to the Indian River Lagoon under the IRL Act; 6,700 residential units connected to Martin County sewer system.
  • Numerous resolutions adopted to support St. Lucie River and water quality initiatives.


State Requirements Explained

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL): is a scientific determination of the maximum amount of a given pollutant that surface water can absorb and still meet the water quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life. Water bodies that do not meet water quality standards are identified as "impaired" for the particular pollutants of concern - nutrients, bacteria, mercury, etc. - and TMDLs must be developed, adopted and implemented to reduce those pollutants and clean up the water body. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Restoration Targets for the St. Lucie River and Estuary Basin were adopted in 2009.

Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP): is the "blueprint" for restoring impaired waters by reducing pollutant loadings to meet the allowable loadings established in a TMDL. It represents a comprehensive set of strategies - permit limits on wastewater facilities, urban and agricultural best management practices, conservation programs, financial assistance and revenue generating activities, etc., designed to implement the pollutant reductions established by the TMDL. The Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) for the St. Lucie River and Estuary Basin was adopted in 2013.


Restoring watersheds after decades of development and drainage manipulation is a challenging task. It requires innovation, commitment and significant resources. Many local, state and federal sources have been utilized to make the progress we have thus far, and they will all be necessary to reach our goals. The most basic source of funding is our county ad valorem funds.

The board has committed $1.25 million each year from county property assessment revenues. This has been supplemented with $500,000 annually from a franchise fee paid to Martin County by Florida Power and Light and $280,000 annually from a portion of the county’s municipal service taxing unit assessment. All of this local investment is leveraged with state and federal grants and appropriations.

Funding sources include Environmental Protection Agency section 319 grants, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Total Maximum Daily Load grants, a South Florida Water Management District Cooperative Funding grant, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program grant, the St. Lucie River Issues Team and state legislative appropriations.

Martin County's Contribution

Martin County has contributed $75 million toward land acquisition that precipitated $169 million in land acquisition for Indian River Lagoon South Everglades restoration projects. Those acquisitions led to construction of the $550 million C-44 stormwater treatment area and reservoir.

In addition, Martin County has invested $40 million in local stormwater treatment areas and septic to sewer conversions that have complemented $45 million in matching grant funds to provide nutrient reduction, flood control and water quality improvements to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.

In total, Martin County has contributed well over $85 million in water quality related investment, which has been integral in over $600 million current total investment in our local watersheds.

This progress is prompting even more advancement as momentum is building for future water quality projects.

Things You Can Do

Here are a few tips on what you can do to help protect our waterways:

Martin County has adopted lawn fertilizer controls that restrict phosphorus and nitrogen all year long. View Martin County's fertilizer ordinance information.

Pet waste contains excessive nutrients and bacteria which are harmful to humans, animals, and plants. Bag your pet waste and dispose of properly – never leave pet waste on lawns, trails or public areas.

Bare spots in your lawn can cause soil to wash into storm drains, and choke out natural vegetation and aquatic life.

Paint and cleaning chemicals should never be dumped in storm drains. Take chemicals to the Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Center at 9155 Busch Street in Palm City. 

Report any illicit discharge, illicit connection to the County's drainage, pipe failures, construction site runoff or other stormwater issues: Complete our online form.