2021 First Quarter Water Quality Update

Health Advisories

Health advisories are issued in estuarine systems by the Department of Health when colonies of Enterococcus bacteria surpass 71 colonies/100ml of sample. If they get this number a second sample is pulled to confirm. If confirmed a health advisory issued.

The select their samples sites based off of where people swim and when they swim. Bayou Texar and Sanders Beach are monitored all year. Other sites only during the swimming season.

The Sea Grant program is trying to help the community keep the frequency of issued health advisories to less than 30% of the samples taken. Here are the first quarter numbers for 2021.

Enterococcus bacteria count rubric for health advisories (Florida Department of Health)


GOOD 0-35 colonies/100ml of sample

MODERATE 36-70 colonies/100ml

POOR 71> colonies/100ml


Health Advisory Frequency

Data provided by the Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Beaches Program

Body of Water # of samples collected # of POOR reports # of advisories issued % frequency of advisories
Bayou Texar 15 4 2 .13
Sanders Beach 15 2 2 .13
Bayou Chico 3 1 1 .33
Bayou Grande 3 0 0 .00
Big Lagoon SP 4 1 0 .00
Perdido Key SP        
Casino Beach 3 0 0 .00
Park East 3 0 0 .00
Park West 3 0 0 .00
Quietwater Beach 3 0 0 .00
Ft. Pickens        
Opal Beach        
TOTAL 52 7 5 .10



Fish Kills

Fish kills are caused by numerous reasons. We track the number reported in our bay by FWC. Many times they are not sure of the cause but in many cases they are. Often the kill was the result of discarded bait from fishermen. But it’s the large kills associated with poor water quality that we are focused on here. Once a big problem in the bay area, they are not common any longer. Here is the first quarter report for fish kills in the bay area for 2021.


Fish Kill Data provided by FWC (Escambia and Santa Rosa counties)

Month # of Fish Kills reported # of Dead Fish reported Cause
Jan 0 0  
Feb 0 0  
Mar 1 ? Not pollution related
Apr 0    




There has been considerable interest in the restoration of both seagrass and scallops to the Pensacola Bay area. We know that a considerable amount of our seagrasses are gone and that they are an important habitat supporting fish and wildlife within the bay; many of which are economically important to the community. We also know that scallops once existed here in numbers large enough to all harvest, but are all but gone now. For the last five years Sea Grant has used citizen volunteers to conduct a scallop search and have only found live animal in that time.

There are several reasons why these have declined over the years but degraded water quality is a factor. In recent years rainfall has been heavier than normal and with the amount of development around the bay, much of this runs off into the system. This project is to monitor the salinity around the area. Sources indicate that in order for selected seagrasses and scallops to survive the salinity of the water needs to be at least 20‰. We currently have volunteers monitor surface salinities weekly at different locations around the bay. It is our goal to reach 100 readings before having a good idea what the salinities are, and we are calculating the mean, median, and mode to assess. These values being close to one another supports to conclusion as to what the salinity for that location actually is most of the time. Here are the first quarter numbers for 2021.


Body of Water No. of samples taken Surface Mean salinity (‰) Surface Median salinity Surface Mode salinity
Bayou Grande 28 21 21 21
Bayou Texar 9 8 8 NA
Big Lagoon 15 23 23 20
Big Sabine 33 22 22 22
Bruce Beach 1 18 18 NA
Kees Bayou 74 20 21 14
Little Sabine 21 23 24 25
Lower Perdido Bay 88 16 15 20
Old River 36 23 23 25
Sanders Beach 20 19 20 20
Shoreline Park 1 18 18 NA


The second quarter report will be posted in July.

If you have questions about the numbers, or how you can make changes to help improve the bay, contact your county extension office.


Posted: April 16, 2021

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources
Tags: Water Quality

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