The Florida Peninsula is one of the most unique landscapes on earth. Periodically inundated in a sub-tropical setting, it features one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, the Everglades. The control of this water—draining it, redirecting it, and containing it—has been an evolving story over the last two centuries of man versus nature. And a story where there is no true winner, unless we can find a balance that ensures the ongoing health of each.
In the 19th century, rainfall across the Florida peninsula caused Lake Okeechobee to swell and overflow its southern banks, sending a steady flow of clean fresh water south across the sloughs of the Everglades to create what Marjory Stoneman Douglas termed, “The River of Grass.”
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, efforts to attract settlers to Florida led to the building of dikes and canals to block the natural southern flow of water through the Everglades. This created fertile, arable farmland in the areas south of Lake Okeechobee.
As industrialized agriculture expanded, led by the sugar industry, the damage being done by water mismanagement practices in Florida became apparent. Phosphate-laden farm runoff polluted Lake Okeechobee and, with nowhere else to go, was shunted into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie waterways, fueling massive blooms of toxic blue-green algae.
Additionally, the lack of freshwater flowing through the Everglades threatens the drinking water supply for millions of Floridians and has caused a radical decline in the native wildlife population, as well as massive seagrass die-offs, algae blooms and fish kills in Florida Bay due to hypersalinity.
In 2016, in response to this environmental emergency, a small group of fishing guides decided to stand up against the political and economic forces that were putting whole sections of life in Florida at risk. And this is where Captains For Clean Water was born.
Growing a groundswell of like-minded supporters, this band of anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, business folks and conservationists works to educate the public and put pressure on our state and federal representatives to take action on initiatives that will protect and restore the Everglades and Florida’s waters.
In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), outlining the steps to a cleaner future. However, CERP has suffered from a lack of funding and political support since then.
Thanks to the efforts of Captains For Clean Water, other conservation organizations, private businesses and concerned citizens, there is renewed energy behind funding programs to build the infrastructure needed to clean and send the water south to the Everglades once again. You’re invited to join the fight and help protect our way of life for future generations.
We believe that one of the biggest barriers to fixing the problems facing Florida’s estuaries and Everglades boils down to one thing—people just don’t know about them. Captains For Clean Water works to advance science-based solutions through efforts focused on awareness, education, and advocacy, with the goal of restoring and protecting aquatic ecosystems for the enjoyment of all.
For decades, poor water management practices in Florida have persisted due to a lack of public awareness, and therefore, a lack of political will. Today, water managers and policymakers are beginning to understand that we cannot manage our most valuable resources like we did 100 years ago. Environmental impact, population growth and human health and safety must be a part of the conversation.
Creating real change with our water starts with hardworking policy. By engaging and mobilizing thousands of supporters, we’ve been able to keep water quality a priority issue and provide a platform for our supporters to hold policymakers accountable.
For years, the outdoor community had been absent from the fight for clean water. Founded by fishing guides, we recognized that as primary users of this valuable resource, we have the responsibility to fight to protect it. Today, we’ve rallied sportsmen and the outdoor industry nationwide to the frontlines of this effort, including leading brands like Costa, SeaDek, YETI, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, and Mustad, helping normalize conservation advocacy as part of the narrative.
In politics, water quality was once viewed as an environmental issue, disconnected from conversations about economic health. Florida’s water crises devastated businesses of all kinds proving that Florida’s economy directly depends on clean water—especially the $63 billion tourism industry and $24.6 billion fishing and marine industry. We’re strengthening the fight by standing side-by-side with the business community.
Water mismanagement in Florida has led to the near collapse of three nationally-recognized estuaries. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are inundated with polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee, causing toxic algae blooms, seagrass die-offs, and fish kills while the Everglades and Florida Bay are starved of the natural freshwater flow they desperately need.
Send the water south. Not east, west, or underground. The solution, called Everglades restoration, was passed by Congress in 2000 in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the roadmap to restoring the Everglades.
Through awareness, education, and advocacy, we’ve rallied together the outdoor industry, environmental community, businesses, and everyday citizens, providing a platform for their voices to be heard. Because of our incredible supporters, we’re seeing progress happen at a record pace and critical projects being expedited.
Right now, there are two major issues that have cascading effects on the interconnected waters of south Florida—the direction of water and the quality of water in Lake Okeechobee. The water in the lake is going the wrong way, and it’s also heavily polluted with nutrients that fuel harmful algal blooms.
The manipulation of water in south Florida over the past 100 years has created an environmental crisis today.
There are too many nutrients, and we have heavily altered flows—we need to fix the water quality and we need to fix where the water goes.