The Butler Chain of Lakes is one of Windermere’s most notable features. Read the articles below for resources to help us keep our lakes pristine for all to enjoy.
Tips for Healthy Lakes
Butler Chain of Lakes is designated by the Florida legislature as an Outstanding Florida Waterway due to its exceptional water quality, outstanding fishing, and excellent opportunities for water recreation. Over 5,000 acres of water are distributed across 13 lakes connected by 32 navigable canals, and many residents enjoy this pristine resource that surrounds the Town of Windermere. As a partner and a neighbor on the Butler Chain, the Town of Windermere is dedicated to protecting habitat and ensuring that conservation education is an important part of our mission.
- All plants need nutrients, but they can only take up a certain amount at a given time.
- Nutrient pollution is the primary type of pollution in Florida’s waters. Much of it comes from fertilizer use in urban landscapes.
- Sod, turf, grass, and ornamental landscape plants can only take up so much in the way of plant nutrients (fertilizer)…that which the plant isn’t capable of absorbing runs off into local lakes.
- Nutrients applied to land plants and sod as fertilizer cause algae and invasive aquatic plants to grow out of control.
- When too much fertilizer is applied, or the wrong formulation is used, nutrients not absorbed get washed into lakes. Lawns do not soak up or absorb extra nutrients.
- Nutrients (fertilizer) must be properly delivered to the plant – either to the leaf or to the root system. Any product that isn’t absorbed will run off.
- Fertilizer applications must also consider timing of rainfall events. Rain washes excess fertilizer into lakes and waterways. It only takes ¼” of rain to wash off a fertilizer application.
- Orange County’s fertilizer ordinance provides detailed instructions for formulations and timing of applications, including a blackout period from June 1 to September 30 for any fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus. More info here.
What You Can Do to Help
- Clean up after your pet. Pet waste should be bagged and disposed of in the garbage. Pet waste contains elevated levels of nutrients as well as disease-causing pathogens and parasites.
- Sweep up any fertilizer that lands on a paved surface to prevent it from washing off into lakes.
- Keep yard waste out of streets and sidewalks.
- Wash your vehicle on a grassy area or in a designated car washing site. Make sure the detergent you use is free of any phosphorus.
- Please adhere to the guidance in the fertilizer ordinance…and make sure your landscaping company does, too.
- Please do not feed wildlife – birds, squirrels, fish, etc. When wildlife congregates, the animal waste is concentrated in one area and pollutes our lakes with nutrients and potentially harmful microorganisms.
- Lakefront properties should be planted with native aquatic plants. Ideally a combination of submersed, emergent, and floating species add aesthetic beauty and many ecological benefits to the lake.
- The University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (includes a photo directory of native and invasive plants)
- “What’s Happening on My Lake?” – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Orange County Environmental Protection Division manages the invasive aquatic plants that pose the greatest risk to the Butler Chain under the State of Florida’s Workplan agreement administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Invasive Plant Management Section. Specifics on this program and species authorized for treatment can be found here
- Orange County Water Atlas
- Lake information specific to the Butler Chain of Lakes
It’s always best to reach out to each agency before work starts to confirm if a permit is needed, if the work qualifies under an exemption, and what the specific requirements are. Click a link below for more information:
- Any control of aquatic plants on the Butler Chain of Lakes requires a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Construction of docks, seawalls, boathouses, etc. may require a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
- Depending on the scope of work (aquatic plant management, seawall/dock construction, etc.), lakefront properties may also need a permit from Orange County Environmental Protection Division
Harmful Algal Bloom Resources
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are the oldest living organisms on earth. They have been around for millennia in freshwater systems, and they have the ability to produce toxins under certain environmental conditions. Blooms, however, are not always visible, and there is no visual way to determine the presence or absence of toxins. If toxins are present, they may persist for hours, days, weeks, or months. Unfortunately, scientists don’t fully understand the mechanisms driving toxin production, but we do know that algal blooms are more prevalent when water is warm, nutrients are abundant, and sunlight is plentiful. Climate change is resulting in increased intensity, frequency, and duration of algal blooms. Cyanotoxins can be harmful to the skin, nervous system, liver, and other physiologic systems via exposure from recreational activities. It is always recommended to wash with soap and tap water after any contact with surface waters (fresh or saltwater).
Naegleria Fowleri, the Brain-Eating Amoeba: What Do I Need to Know?
This microorganism is found in nearly every freshwater system on earth – from mud puddles to lakes to rivers and reservoirs. When water temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the amoeba is more active and is also more likely to result in infection in humans because recreational activities in water increase in warmer months. Although rare, it has an exceptionally high mortality rate. Infection occurs only when water is forcefully shoved into the nasal passages of an adult or child. The best protection for swimmers and skiers is to wear noseclips or a scuba mask to prevent possible exposure. It cannot cause infection if water is ingested, enters the eyes, ears, or cuts. More info.
Articles and Important Information
May 2022 Outreach – Cypress Trees: Majestic Lakefront Giants
April 2022 Outreach – Spring: A Time for Blooms of Many Kinds
March 2022 Outreach – Lakes Cleanup Day Round 2
February 2022 Outreach – Lakes Cleanup Day
January 2022 Outreach – Featured Native Aquatic Plant: Illinois Pondweed
November 2021 Outreach – Household Pollution Prevntion: Help Keep Our Lakes Clean