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Surface Water Quality

Our quality of life is dependent on clean water that will support and sustain our community needs as well as our environment and economy.

Miami-Dade County’s Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) monitors surface water quality throughout the County monthly. Water quality samples are collected at 87 locations along Biscayne Bay, as well as major drainage canals and tributaries leading to the Bay.

The importance of surface water quality and its present overall condition was recognized by the State of Florida, when it designated the surface waters of Biscayne Bay an Outstanding Florida Water. This designation provides for the highest levels of protection to assist in maintaining the quality of its waters.

Data collected by the County indicates that open water sites in Biscayne Bay and other tidal waters meet or are superior to federal, state and local standards for recreational use and support of healthy fish and wildlife populations.

Watch how surface water quality is monitored.

Biscayne Bay’s water

Compared to other Florida waters, Biscayne Bay is characterized by very low concentrations of nutrients (much like the Everglades) and pollutants, and has excellent water clarity that supports robust seagrass meadows, economically-vital fisheries populations, ecologically-critical habitats such as coral and mangrove communities, and provides recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.

Biscayne Bay recreational activities are an important part of the Miami-Dade County’s economy, contributing $3.8 billion in economic output, $2.1 billion in incomes, and 57,000 jobs.

However, the water quality and supported habitats in some portions of the Bay, canals and rivers exhibit signs of human impact. Portions of a number of canals in urbanized areas do not meet one or more water quality criteria, and are designated by the State of Florida as "impaired."

The most common problem is excess amounts of certain types of bacteria that are indicators of sewage contamination. Additionally, some portions of Biscayne Bay are affected by excess nutrients, which may lead to algal blooms that reduce water clarity, damage seagrass and reduce the ecological health of the Bay.

Conditions such as these have played a role in the occurrence of three unprecedented algal blooms in the last decade in Biscayne Bay, and two of these blooms have caused significant harm to the seagrass community.

DERM’s surface water quality monitoring, working in conjunction with seagrass monitoring, has contributed to understanding of the changes in these communities and better enables Miami-Dade County to continue implementing many programs that work together to protect and improve the quality of our surface waters.

For these reasons, Miami-Dade County implements many programs that work together to help understand, protect and improve the quality of our surface waters.

Each month, County staff collects water samples at 87 locations along Biscayne Bay, as well as major drainage canals and tributaries leading to the Bay.
Each month, County staff collects water samples at 87 locations along Biscayne Bay,
as well as major drainage canals and tributaries leading to the Bay.

Improving water quality

Progressive environmental programs in Miami-Dade County, in collaboration with state and federal efforts, have helped maintain and improve our water quality despite significant increases in population.

This is largely due to the development and use of best management practices, improvements in pollution prevention technology, air and water quality treatment, land-use and stormwater regulations, and environmental remediation and restoration. Protection of natural resources such as trees, wetlands, natural areas, clean soils, the Biscayne Aquifer and aquatic vegetation help filter, recycle or trap harmful nutrients or potential water pollutants.

These strategies prevent or reduce the occurrence or magnitude of pollution that can enter surface water and allow for more sustainable growth and development.

Future outlook

Biscayne Bay remains one of Florida’s healthiest and premier estuaries. However, events that have occurred during the past 10 years indicate that the Bay is reaching a tipping point in being able to withstand human-based and natural disturbances.

While there are multiple efforts underway to improve the quality of waters discharging to Biscayne Bay, it is extremely important that we continue to assess the water quality and habitats of the Bay. This information is required to allow us to know when changes occur, determine the cause of the change and the effects those changes have on the habitats, plants and animals in the Bay.

What you can do

You can assist in maintaining and protecting the water quality, seagrass, habitats and the fish and myriad of plants and animals that depend water quality of the Bay.

There are many simple and common- sense things that, when done together as a community, will help sustain and improve the quality of the Bay. These include:

  • When visiting the Bay, be sure to dispose of your trash and wastes in appropriate containers. If none are available, pack it up and dispose of it at home.
  • Help keep the bay clean by participating in cleanup events. Many local and state agencies and environmental groups sponsor cleanup says like Miami-Dade County’s Baynanza, a week-long celebration of the Bay.
  • Use eco-friendly landscaping that minimizes the need for watering and fertilizers that may make their way to the Bay through water run-off from your lawns into storm drains. Many storm drains connect to canals that carry the water, as well as nutrients and debris, to Biscayne Bay.
  • Report unusual water color, odors, debris or activities to DERM’s Environmental Hotline at 305-372-6955.

For more information on the surface water quality program, call DERM’s Restoration & Enhancement Program at 305-372-6864.

Back to Top Page Last Edited: Wed Oct 20, 2021 2:15:49 PM

Water Monitoring Map

Click on the map to see Miami-Dade County's surface water monitoring locations.

View the map to see Miami-Dade County's surface water monitoring locations.


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