Impaired Creeks

What does it mean when a creek is impaired?

An impaired creek has been negatively impacted by pollution, resulting in decreased water quality.

The term “impaired” refers to waters polluted to a level that no longer fully supports the uses designated by the state for that particular body of water (such as boating, swimming or drinking water).

At what point does a creek become impaired?

A creek is impaired when the amount of pollutants exceeds an established threshold.

One tool used to determine the level of pollution in a creek is the Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. The TMDL is the amount of a particular pollutant that can be present in a waterbody without violating state water quality standards. There is a separate TMDL for each pollutant in the waterbody. A creek can have several TMDLs depending on the kinds of pollutants present. Also, a creek can have TMDLs established by different agencies such as the DEP (state level) or the EPA (federal level).

What happens after a TMDL has been implemented?

Once a TMDL is established, it is then a matter of making sure that the levels in the waterbody stay below the TMDL. This is accomplished by creating a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) which contains actions to reduce and prevent pollutant discharges through various cost-effective means.

BMAPs outline the methods for controlling both point sources (pipes) and diffuse sources, which consist of run-off from urban, agricultural, forestry, and private activities, septic systems, leaking underground storage tanks, stream channel alteration, unconfined aquifers, and damage to a riparian area.

What local water bodies have TMDLs?

Fecal coliform bacteria TMDLs

These creeks are impaired due to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria exceeding state criteria:

  • Hogtown Creek
  • Sweetwater Branch Creek
  • Tumblin Creek

Nitrogen TMDLs

These water bodies are impaired due to excessive nitrogen levels:

  • Alachua Sink (Sweetwater Branch and Tumblin are tributaries)
  • Newnans Lake (Lake Forest and Little Hatchet are tributaries)
  • Lake Wauberg

Phosphorus TMDLs

These water bodies are impaired due to excessive phosphorus levels:

  • Newnans Lake (Lake Forest and Little Hatchet are tributaries)
  • Lake Wauberg
  • Orange Lake

When a water body has a TMDL, BMAP stakeholders work together to look at the sources of pollutants and address them.

How is our community addressing these TMDLs?

The Orange Creek Basin Management Action Plan, was developed in partnership with the City of Gainesville, Marion and Alachua Counties, the St. Johns River Water Management District, Alachua County Health Department, Gainesville Regional Utilities, private silviculture interests, and other local stakeholders. This plan identifies actions and commitments to restore and protect water quality in the Orange Creek Basin. The Orange Creek Basin is a tributary watershed of the Ocklawaha River. The plan increases water quality restoration efforts for Lake Wauberg, Orange Lake, and Newnans Lake as well as continuing support for the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project and further refinements to strategies used to reduce fecal coliforms bacteria in urban streams.  The plan’s implementation benefits surface waters in Alachua and Marion Counties, including Orange Lake, Lake Wauberg, Lochloosa Lake, Newnans Lake, Tumblin Creek, Sweetwater Branch, Hogtown Creek, and Paynes Prairie.