Water Quality

a coral reef in clear waters
Coral reefs need clean, clear waters to thrive. Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Habitats protected by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary — coral reefs, seagrass, hard bottom, mangroves, and sand flats — have a common denominator: water. Water quality describes the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, and includes factors such as nutrients, salinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, bacteria, algae and contaminants. Good water quality is essential to a healthy marine ecosystem in the Florida Keys. Too many nutrients, sediments, and other pollutants can have serious negative effects on habitats and marine life, making them more prone to disease and even death. The importance of clean, clear water in maintaining marine resources within the sanctuary was underscored by the creation of a Water Quality Protection Program as part of the sanctuary's designation in 1990. The Water Quality Protection Program coordinates research and monitoring to better understand the sources and impacts of pollution on sanctuary habitats, and makes recommendations on how to maintain and restore the ideal water quality needed for a healthy marine ecosystem.

In addition to protecting water quality within the Florida Keys, scientists and managers in the Water Quality Protection Program also look at how sanctuary waters are influenced by activities outside the Florida Keys. Among other efforts, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contributes to regional programs to restore the South Florida ecosystem and improve the quality of adjacent waters that are carried by currents into the sanctuary.

An aerial view of the clear, blue, nearshore waters of the Florida Keys.

Water Quality Protection Program

A Water Quality Protection Program has been part of the sanctuary management structure since inception.

Shallow water near mangroves

Ecosystem Connectivity

Good water quality is everyone's business. Connecting with local stakeholders and participating in regional efforts is a priority for the sanctuary.