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Air quality is water quality

When you run into a traffic jam, you probably think first about how you’ll be late to wherever it is you’re trying to go. Maybe next you think about the excess air pollution and smog coming from that traffic jam. Then, perhaps, you think about carbon dioxide emissions fueling global climate change. As if all that isn’t enough, there’s another traffic woe to consider – water pollution.

Fossil fuel exhaust – from cars, planes, even lawn-care equipment – isn’t just carbon dioxide. It contains many other compounds with far-reaching effects. The tailpipe emission with the biggest impact on water quality is a group of compounds called nitrogen oxides. Several processes deposit these nitrogen-containing compounds from the atmosphere to surface waters, where they contribute to nitrogen pollution. Nitrogen pollution in southwest Florida estuaries is the main cause of eutrophication, a process that starts with excessive nutrients and leads to algal blooms and low-oxygen waters that can kill aquatic organisms.

So what’s to be done? Here are a few tips for ways individuals can help:

  • Walk, cycle, carpool, or take the bus instead of driving a personal vehicle.
  • Bundle your errands rather than making multiple independent trips. This can reduce the number of miles you drive.
  • Consider making the switch to an electric vehicle. It will zero out your tailpipe emissions, and local electricity sources are getting cleaner.
  • Reduce your flight miles. You can also make a difference by choosing nonstop flights over short hauls – planes burn a lot of fuel while taking off. Flying economy-class, while increasingly uncomfortable, reduces your carbon footprint per flight. Airlines can fit more economy seats than first-class seats on a plane, which reduces per-seat emissions in economy class.

There is community-level movement toward lower-emission transportation. The City of Sarasota is preparing its first citywide Master Transportation Plan with a specific focus on expanding alternative and green transportation options. The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is also updating its Long Range Transportation Plan with outreach events focused on potential improvements to bike, pedestrian, and public transit infrastructure.

Want to learn more about alternative transportation in Sarasota-Manatee? Join SBEP staff in participating in the City of Sarasota’s Bike to Work Day on Friday, November 1, 2019 in Payne Park.