Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water along the coast where fresh water from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Many estuaries lie along the Gulf of Mexico coast. Estuaries provide habitat for many species of birds, fish and mammals, as well as space for recreational activities, scientific study and aesthetic enjoyment. However, a recent national assessment showed that over 60 percent of estuaries in the United States have hypoxic areas of oxygen-poor water. Decomposing algae that accumulates in waters due to excess nutrients can rob water of oxygen that marine animals need to survive.
Viewer Tip: Plants and marshy areas around estuaries are good natural pollutant filters. But, when there are too many nutrients coming from upstream sources, even estuaries can't filter them all out. Help reduce the amounts of nutrients reaching estuaries with these tips:
- Have your septic system inspected every three years and promptly fix any problems. Pump out your tank as necessary - generally every three to five years.
- Fertilize at the right time, with the right amount, during dry weather.
- Keep leaves and yard waste away from storm drains.
(Sources: EPA, “Gulf Estuary Programs"; EPA, “Basic Information about Estuaries"; NOAA, “Hypoxia and Harmful Algal Blooms in the US"; Image courtesy of NOAA)