A Response to Recent Water Quality "Concerns"

Advocacy & Policy,

A Response to Recent Water Quality "Concerns" 

By: Joshua Goergen, MBA

There are many things that make Southwest Florida unique, and it is why so many tourists from all over the world continue to make it their number one vacation destination. Even better, many are moving here as full-time residents to enjoy the extraordinary quality of life our region has to offer. Our water is our number one resource, and it is a key economic driver for the success of our tourism, hospitality, and real estate industry.

Most residents know that we had water quality issues during the 2018 summer season. Since then, we’ve seen improvements across the region due to our government officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders making water quality their number one priority.

While we continue to make progress on clean water, our local news continues to share photos and publish stories that make it seem we are still suffering from large scale blue green algae and red tide outbreaks. Recently, The News-Press published an article titled, “Weird Water: Aerial photos show puzzling brown streaks around Sanibel Causeway” with an unflattering cover photo of brown water near the Sanibel causeway. For most people that skim through news feeds, they see a photo of dirty water and a headline that implies we are suffering from a major water quality crisis. For those that actually decide to read the article, they will find that Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s most recent water quality report found no signs of Karenia brevis, which can cause red tide, nor Pyrodinium bahamense, which can produce saxitoxin, a potent neurotoxin. It goes on to say that Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation has also been testing the water and hasn’t found anything to be concerned about.

What kind of message is our local news trying to send when they repeatedly publish these types of stories? While no one is arguing that they shouldn’t report newsworthy stories such as unsafe water conditions, sharing stories and photos about dirty water when there is no real harm or danger only hurts our local economy.

Tourists and residents see these types of headlines and may think twice about visiting our beaches, hotels, and restaurants. For those out of state, this may completely change their mind when deciding to visit Southwest Florida or not. The local news isn’t impacted by less tourists visiting our region, but our tourism, hospitality, and real estate industry suffer from a lack of visitors and potential new residents. It is irresponsible and harmful to share articles and stories that drum up fear about our water when no problem currently exists.

When a red tide outbreak shuts down our beaches, we expect them to get the word out. Casting doubt about our water quality does nothing but hurt local businesses. We must hold them accountable for these types of stories and instead work on promoting all the wonderful things Southwest Florida has to offer.

If you have any questions or want to show your support for local businesses and SWFL Inc.'s legislative efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me, Josh Goergen, SWFL Inc.’s Government Relations Manager, at [email protected]. For more information on SWFL Inc.’s 2022 legislative priorities, visit SWFLinc.com/economic-development.