Fertilizers have the potential to harm the health of our Florida springs and other bodies of water, but there are ways to use them responsibly.

What’s going on?

The nutrients found in fertilizers are one of the main causes of eutrophication and nutrient pollution in Florida’s spring systems and waterways. An oversupply of phosphorus and nitrogen can result in excess organic material in the water: this is known as eutrophication. Fish kills, blue-green algae blooms, and dead zones are some of the problems caused by this phenomenon. 

While these nutrients are necessary for the health of the plants and other organisms that inhabit the springs, an overabundance of these compounds can severely impact ecosystem health. 

Why it matters.

The excess of nutrients in the springs and subsequent waterways can fuel harmful algal blooms (HABs), which can harm the ecosystem by overconsuming oxygen, blocking sunlight, and in some cases, releasing toxins into the water.  

While eutrophication occurs naturally, human inputs can exacerbate its effects and cause it to happen at a much faster rate. This is known as cultural eutrophication. 

What you can do.

There are steps you can take to moderate your own fertilizer use on your lawn to help reduce the amount of nutrients exiting your land and potentially causing environmental harm.  

  • Avoid fertilizers with nitrogen and phosphorus 
  • Do not fertilize near waterbodies 
  • Conduct regular soil tests 

Use fertilizers responsibly: keep in mind the weather, time of year, and amount that you are using. These tactics help avoid the amount of nutrients that run off into our waterways from rainfall and other natural weather events.  


Information from the Florida Museum of Natural History, U.S. Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and Northwest Florida Water Management District.