The phosphorus concentration in Lake Okeechobee has doubled since the 1970s and the total inflow of phosphorus is four times the regulatory target load set by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. A Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) has been adopted for Lake Okeechobee with the goal of reducing the average inflow of phosphorus in surface water from 420 to 105 metric tons a year.
The Indian Prairie/Lake Istokpoga sub watershed was identified as one of the largest contributors of phosphorus to the Lake with 20% of the 420 metric tons coming from this basin. The West Waterhole (WWH) Project was initiated in 2006 as part of the Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project (FRESP) to remove excess nutrients from the water in the Indian Prairie Canal (IPC) before it enters Lake Okeechobee.
The Project encompasses approximately 2,500 acres located in the Indian Prairie Basin, south of SR 70 and west of the Lykes Ranch headquarters at Brighton. IPC water is pumped into the project at the northeastern edge and runs south through the site before being returned, posttreatment to the canal further downstream.
The goal of the project is to remove phosphorus from (off-ranch) water in the C-40 Canal. Although the FRESP expired in 2010, the West Waterhole FRESP project agreement was extended by South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Phosphorus removal routinely exceeds the initial estimates with an annual average removal rate of 5.4 metric tons per year (versus the original estimate of 0.2 metric tons per year). The project has removed a total of 38.5 metric tons of phosphorus and 174 metric tons of nitrogen from C- 40 Canal water from 2008-2014, capturing and retaining an average of 85% of the phosphorus and 51% of the nitrogen upstream of Lake Okeechobee.