Inherently, red tides and other algal blooms occur naturally in water all over the world. Spanish explorers documented irritating fumes and fish kills in the Gulf of Mexico during their explorations in the 1500s. However, over the past 50 years scientists have noticed an increase of algal blooms, specifically in Florida’s waters. Algal bloom reports from 1994 to 2002 have been 13 to 18 times greater than reports from 1954 to 1963. Driving factors behind this significant increase include more people living in Florida, which means more developed areas with impermeable surfaces, agricultural runoff, major farming operations and more fertilizer and other products on private yards, and outdated wastewater treatment options. Solutions to mitigate harmful algal blooms and red tides are often swept up in the political arena and are very often not addressed properly or are unaddressed completely. For this reason, and for the sake of Florida’s beautiful and prosperous natural environment, it is extremely important that homeowners, business owners, and local and state decision makers understand the implications and cause of algal blooms and know the steps that can be taken to reduce these occurrences. These steps can help revitalize the health of our local waterways and aquatic species, as well as promote a vigorous economy.

The Surfrider Foundation has developed its Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) program to address urban and harmful waste and stormwater runoff. OFG’s purpose is to revive the health of our watershed and oceans by applying CPR – conservation, permeability, and retention – to local gardens and other public spaces.

  • Conservation of water, chemicals, energy, and habitat through native and climate-appropriate plants
  • Permeability by creating living soil and utilizing material for surfaces that allows water to slow and sink
  • Retention of rain water for reuse or groundwater recharge, preventing polluted wet-weather runoff

Applying CPR to landscaping and gardening techniques can help reduce pollution, conserve water, restore natural watershed functions, and promote habitat restoration. OFG’s allow soil to act like a sponge to help restore the helpful functions of watersheds by protecting local water supplies and preventing pollution from reaching the ocean. They also reduce flooding, pull carbon from the air and into plants and soil, and create wildlife habitat (above is a typical OFG and below is a curb cut flowing into a bio-swale).

In Volusia County, Florida, the Department of Environmental Management has developed a very helpful website to provide education and gardening tips to the public. All-year round, watering lawns is not permitted between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. There are also different regulations during Daylight Savings and Standard Time. The department has also provided links to community cleanups, water-wise irrigation tips and plants, and Florida-friendly landscaping ideas.

One of the easiest and best things any member of the public can do to help reduce the effects of harmful algal blooms and red tides is to stay informed. Surfrider offers very easy to understand information on the importance of healthy waterways and a guide to creating your own Ocean Friendly Garden. Volusia/Flagler Surfrider Chapter’s OFG Coordinator, Kelsey Hansen, can help answer questions you might have regarding the gardening and landscaping techniques or discuss workdays or other educational experiences to promote these sustainable techniques.

Kelsey Hansen –

Here are three helpful tips anyone can practice at home to help reduce threat of harmful algal blooms and promote the revitalization of our watersheds and oceans. For more information, please visit the Surfrider Foundation: Ocean Friendly Gardens Facebook page,  or


Kelsey Hansen –