Some of you were born in Charlotte County and decided to stay. Others discovered Charlotte and decided to become year-round residents. Yet others love Charlotte enough to relocate for part of each year. Among those groups there is personal focus on the area’s natural environment and wildlife, boating, fishing, swimming, golfing, beaching, seafood and the general tropical lifestyle we enjoy.
Whoever you are and regardless of why you came here, you share with other county residents and visitors one overwhelming attraction: water. And likewise, you share with every other county resident and visitor one overwhelming requirement to continue thriving: water.
Lacking a reliable source of clean, safe water, fresh and salt, Charlotte County and its region will lose its attractiveness. Even if you are a developer suddenly attracted to make money in Charlotte County, you will make some of that money because of the water we have here.
Planning to open a business? You must have good water to succeed. Do you plan to sit quietly on the lanai or the dock watching the scenery? How long will that last without safe, clean water to watch — and to drink, if nothing else?
Charlotte County has water right now. But much of what is happening poses threats to that essential resource. Not just green slime or red tide, but the wider impact of expansion and development, of uncontrolled population growth can ruin the lives we love here. So we must demand that our officials, decision makers, and developers always include in their planning and regulations the preservation of our water resources. Those resources are deep and wide. Every new or expanded condo tower, residential area, retail development, road/sidewalk, sewer, park — everything impacts our water resources.
One veteran Ccounty commissioner said recently that he is excited to begin learning about our water environment and how vital it is to the county. Good for him. Good that he recognizes that he (and we) have a lot to learn, and good that he is busy learning it. Join him. Whoever you are and whatever you do, you must be part of planning to protect and preserve our water resources. You must do more to understand the importance of our water and then use part of your time to take action.
Learn that the Charlotte Harbor watershed includes 4,700 square miles covering parts of seven counties (and smaller sections of four others). Right now our population swells in winter with 30 percent seasonal residents. Learn that the Peace River is the drinking water source for more than 100,000 people, and that the 105-miles-long river flows down to the Charlotte Harbor estuary through other counties and towns whose decisions can change the water we drink, fish in, boat on. Learn that the “natural” water feature in your neighborhood likely was dug as a storm water pond. Learn to maintain it.
Take time to learn the nature of our estuary, where fresh and salt water come together, where sea creatures, plants, and wildlife flourish to our benefit. Ours is one of the largest, most productive, most complex estuaries in the nation. It is under threat. Protect it.
We face challenges. Our area is growing. To speak plainly, we have lots of effort to attract new residents and to meet all of their human demands. We have a much smaller force attempting to protect and enhance our natural resources, most importantly water. Population growth seems infinite. Our water and other resources are finite. That is an untenable situation.
Demand that our community and all of its leaders — and that you — work to learn about and to protect what we have.
Preservation is smarter than restoration. What is that old saying about “An ounce of prevention...”?
Robert L. Burns, PhD, is a member of the Charlotte County Curmudgeon Club. Readers may reach him at