Charlotte Harbor is a 270-square-mile estuarine system in west-central Florida. It is being subjected to increasing environmental stress by rapid population growth and development. By 2020, population in the inflow area may double, which will result in increased demands for freshwater and increased waste loads.
The Charlotte Harbor inflow area includes about 4,685 square miles. The Myakka, the Peace, and the Caloosahatchee are the major rivers emptying into the harbor. About 70 percent of the land in these three river basins is used for agriculture and range. In the coastal basin around Charlotte Harbor, about 50 percent of the total land area is devoted to commercial or residential uses. Water use in the inflow area is about 565 million gallons per day, of which 59 percent is used for irrigation, 26 percent for industry, 11 percent for public supply, and 4 percent for rural supply.
Total freshwater inflow from the three major rivers, the coastal area, and rainfall directly into Charlotte Harbor averages between 5,700 and 6,100 cubic feet per second, which is more than 3,500 million gallons per day. A trend analysis of about 50 years of streamflow data shows a statistically significant decreasing trend for the Peace River stations at Bartow, Zolfo Springs, and Arcadia. No significant trend has been observed in the Myakka or the Caloosahatchee River data. In the Peace River, the decrease in flow may be related to a long-term decline in the potentiometric surface of the underlying Floridan aquifer system, which resulted from ground-water withdrawals. It is not possible to determine whether the trend will continue. However, if it does continue at the same rate, then, except for brief periods of storm runoff, the Peace River at Zolfo Springs could be dry year-round in about 100 years.
Of the 114 facilities permitted to discharge domestic or industrial effluent to waters tributary to Charlotte Harbor, 88 are in the Peace River basin. Phosphate ore and citrus processing account for most of the industrial effluent. Several locations in the headwaters of the Peace River have been significantly affected as a result of receiving wastewater effluent. The Peace, the Myakka, and the Caloosahatchee Rivers transport more than 2,000 tons per day of dissolved solids, more than 17 tons per day of nitrogen, and about 6 tons per day of phosphorus.
By 2020, the population in the inflow area is expected to increase by more than 500,000 people. They will require an additional 76 million gallons per day for water supply. The increased population will produce an additional 60 million gallons per day of domestic wastewater, which could result in an additional 3 tons per day of nitrogen and 0.65 ton per day of phosphorus. More than 150 square miles of land will be converted to urban uses, which will produce another 0.25 ton per day of nitrogen from urban runoff. These increased nutrient loads can be expected to occur concurrently with decreased freshwater inflow.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Land use, water use, streamflow characteristics, and water-quality characteristics of the Charlotte Harbor inflow area, Florida
Water Supply Paper
U.S. G.P.O. ;
Books and Open-File Reports Section [distributor], 1990