Air and Watershed Management


  • Air and Watershed Management
  • (941) 742-5980
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The Air and Watershed Management program is responsible for: 1) Monitoring the air and water quality of the County to meet various regulatory requirements; 2) Coordinating compliance with the County's municipal storm sewer permit (also known as our "MS4 permit") and implementing the County's stormwater ordinance; 3) Implementing the County's biosolids landspreading ordinance; and 4) Evaluating waterbody impairments and watershed management plans. The Air and Watershed Management program also investigates citizen complaints related to water quality, stormwater systems, algae blooms, fish kills, and landspreading.

Environmental Monitoring

We operate a variety of environmental monitoring programs to demonstrate compliance with state or federal requirements, demonstrate the effectiveness of our watershed improvement efforts, quantify the amount of pollutants entering our receiving waters, and establish ambient air quality trends. Data from our monitoring programs meet strict national quality assurance standards and are reported to national databases.

Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality sampling in the Braden river

The Air and Watershed Protection program operates three (3) surface water quality monitoring programs in our lakes, streams, rivers, and estuaries. Our water quality programs are supported by our own certified environmental laboratory. Data from these programs are suitable for a variety of purposes and are easily available through the Manatee Water Atlas (*Opens in New Tab).

Air Quality Monitoring

monitoringManatee County air quality monitoring station

The Air and Watershed Management program operates three (3) air quality monitoring stations in Manatee County's urban area. These stations monitor ground-level ozone, the most significant air pollutant in the region. Our air quality data meets strict quality assurance standards and is suitable for establishing the air quality attainment status of Manatee County.

Biological Monitoring

Seagrass Seagrass meadow in Sarasota bay

In some cases living resources are the best indicator of environmental quality. A key resource in the estuary is the health of the area's seagrass beds. The Air and Watershed Management program does a once-per-year collection of data that helps evaluate seagrass condition in coastal Manatee County.

Your Air Quality

State and federal air quality forecasts combine observations made by Manatee County's own monitoring stations with those from monitoring stations in the region to form sophisticated, but easy to interpret, depictions of Manatee County's air quality. We recommend those interested in our local air quality to look at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow forecast, one of the best of these forecasts. Many air pollutants may affect our air quality. Ozone is by far the most significant in Florida.

Local Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations

map of local ambient air quality monitoring stations

The Natural Resources Department operates three ambient air quality monitoring stations within Manatee County. These stations are located where our air quality may be most affected by urban development.

US EPA AirNow National and Regional Daily Air Quality Forecasts


Today's Air Quality Forecast (*Opens in New Tab)

The Air Quality Index

The Air Quality Index (AQI) (*Opens in New Tab) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health.

The AirNow Website

The U.S. EPA, NOAA, NPS, tribal, state, and local agencies developed the AirNow website to provide the public with easy access to national air quality information. The website offers daily AQI forecasts as well as real-time AQI conditions for over 300 cities across the US, and provides links to more detailed state and local air quality websites.

About the Data

The air quality data used in these maps and to generate forecasts are collected using either federal reference or equivalent monitoring techniques or techniques approved by the state, local or tribal monitoring agencies. Since the information needed to make maps must be as "real-time" as possible, the data are displayed as soon as practical after the end of each hour. Although some preliminary data quality assessments are performed, the data as such are not fully verified and validated through the quality assurance procedures monitoring organizations use to officially submit and certify data on the EPA Air Quality System (AQS). Therefore, data are used on the AirNow website only for the purpose of reporting the AQI. Information on the AirNow website is not used to formulate or support regulation, guidance or any other agency decision or position.

(Source:, accessed on 6-30-2010)

About Ground-level Ozone


Ozone (O3) is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is not usually emitted directly into the air, but at ground level is created by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Ozone has the same chemical structure whether it occurs miles above the earth or at ground level and can be "good" or "bad," depending on its location in the atmosphere.

In the earth's lower atmosphere, ground level ozone is considered "bad." Motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents, as well as natural sources, emit NOx and VOC that help form ozone. Ground level ozone is the primary constituent of smog. Sunlight and hot weather cause ground level ozone to form in harmful concentrations in the air. As a result, it is known as a summertime air pollutant. Many urban areas tend to have high levels of "bad" ozone, but even rural areas are also subject to increased ozone levels because wind carries ozone and pollutants that form it hundreds of miles away from their original sources.

"Good" ozone occurs naturally in the stratosphere approximately 10 to 30 miles above the earth's surface and forms a layer that protects life on earth from the sun's harmful rays.

(Source: accessed on 7/1/2010)

Explore the Manatee Water Atlas

Discover the water resources of Manatee County with the Manatee Water Atlas. Manatee County sponsored the Manatee Water Atlas to provide residents, visitors, and businesses with an easy-to-use tool to access information about the area's water resources.

Manatee Water Atlas Q & A

1. What is the Manatee Water Atlas?
The Manatee Water Atlas is a unique interactive website providing mobile-ready mapping, analysis and research tools to answer questions about area water resources.
2. Who can use the Manatee Water Atlas?
The Water Atlas is suitable for all ages and interest levels. This science-oriented resource can be utilized by families, students, and professionals.
3. What projects does the Manatee Water Atlas support?
From school science projects to professional reports, the Water Atlas has the answers you need. The Water Atlas has an unequaled collection of maps, data, documents and photos on area water resources.
4. What else does the Manatee Water Atlas offer?
The Water Atlas has water-related news, a calendar of events and can connect you to local volunteer opportunities.

Local Stormwater Rules

Manatee County has a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to operate its municipal storm sewer system. This permit, known as a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit (or "MS4 permit"), requires us to regulate the types of discharges that go into our storm sewer system as a pollution control measure. The following article describes the public face of our compliance program and how you can help us meet our permit conditions.

Our Municipal Storm Sewer Permit (MS4 Permit) Responsibilities

The County has a variety of responsibilities under its storm sewer permit. These include, but are not limited to: 1) Inspecting and maintaining all components of the municipal separate storm sewer system; 2) Reviewing plans for public and private construction projects of all types to ensure compliance with local stormwater requirements; 3) Implement a local stormwater regulatory authority which the County can use to regulate discharges to the municipal storm sewer system; 4) Implement an approved Stormwater Management Program to reduce stormwater pollution from urban Manatee County; 5) Inspect certain industries and construction sites for compliance with local discharge regulations; 6) Inspect the municipal storm sewer system itself for non-complying discharges and connections from any source; 7) Respond to citizen complaints on issues affecting our storm sewer system; and 8) Monitor our receiving waters to demonstrate the effectiveness of our Stormwater Management Program. We are also required to prepare an Annual Report summarizing our activities during one permit year. The Annual Report and our supporting documentation are audited annually by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) representatives.

The County Stormwater Ordinance: Illicit Discharges and Illicit Connections

The County passed Ordinance 00-02 to meet its responsibilities under its municipal storm sewer permit for local authority to control or terminate unauthorized and/or inappropriate discharges to our storm sewer system. The ordinance implicitly recognizes that the municipal storm sewer system was designed to convey only storm water. The municipal storm sewer system does not have significant pollution treatment capacity. Discharges to the municipal storm sewer system other than storm water flows are generally prohibited.

There are specific exemptions from this ordinance that are specified in the text:

  • water from water line flushing
  • water from landscape irrigation and lawn watering
  • diverted stream flows
  • rising groundwaters
  • uncontaminated groundwater infiltration
  • uncontaminated pumped groundwater
  • discharges from potable water sources
  • water from foundation and footing drains
  • water from springs
  • water from crawl space pumps
  • individual residential car wash water
  • flows from riparian habitats and wetlands
  • dechlorinated swimming pool discharges
  • filter backwash from residential swimming pools
  • street wash waters
  • discharges or flows from emergency fire fighting activities

The discharger, not the County, is responsible for any sampling and analyses to demonstrate that a discharge is uncontaminated.

Since the storm sewer permit is a federal requirement, the County is able to levy fines up to $2000 per day when it is unable to obtain compliance by other means. 

Pollution Prevention Inspection Program

We must verify that construction sites and many types of commercial or industrial facilities are taking steps to prevent non-stormwater discharges into the municipal stormwater system.  Commercial and industrial facility inspections are conducted along with Small Quantity Generator inspections where possible. Other facilities may be inspected as part of an industry-specific inspection. 


Construction site sedimentation and erosion control inspections (ESC) are conducted by qualified ESC inspectors from various County departments depending on the nature and size of the project. All construction sites, regardless of size, must implement proper ESC measures. Sites disturbing 1 acre or more of land area or part of a larger construction project must also have the appropriate FDEP-issued ESC permit.

Environmental Emergencies

Life-threatening emergencies should be reported directly to local emergency officials by calling 911 from any telephone or cellular telephone. This will ensure the most rapid and appropriate response.


Contact Information for Environmental Emergencies

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Wildlife Alert

If you suspect a wildlife or boating law violation, report it to the FWC's Wildlife Alert Reward Program: 888-404-FWCC (3922). If your information results in an arrest, you may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Cell phone users can reach us at *FWC or #FWC, depending on your service provider. 

Example Violations 

* Illegal hunting 
* Taking saltwater game fish out of season 
* Taking protected wildlife species 
* Boating under the influence 

To report a nuisance alligator call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286)

Water, Wetland and Other Complaints

Complaints are accepted by phone, e-mail, or in person. Manatee County's Citizens Action Center serves as the one-stop contact point for all County complaint investigations. They can be reached at 941-742-5800.

Florida Division of Emergency Management - State Warning Point

The State Warning Point is a centralized phone bank managed by the Department of Community Affairs' Division of Emergency Management and operated 24 hours/day and 7 days/week. It is used to report any emergency situations, including, for example, oil and hazardous spills, fires, airline or rail incidents. By phone they may be reached at 1-800-320-0519.

Air Quality Complaints

The Environmental Protection Division's Air Quality program monitors ambient air quality. It is not involved with air quality permitting or compliance. 

For information regarding emissions at regulated or unregulated stationary facilities, please contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest District Office, in Tampa, Florida by telephone at 813-470-5700. 

Open burning in Manatee County is permitted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Forestry. For more information about open burning contact the local Division of Forestry office by telephone at 941-751-7629