Lake discharge is fresh water
From time to time the City of Panama City Beach hears from concerned residents and visitors alike related to discolored water in the Gulf. This water is fresh water that discharges from spring-fed bodies of water, such as Lullwater Lake. The discharge is through a pipe outfall beneath Front Beach Road and out towards the Gulf of Mexico.
There are approximately 10 spring-fed bodies of water which are naturally occurring along our sandy beaches and within the city limits. At times, and especially after rains, many of the lakes fill up and fresh water discharges into the Gulf. This fresh water contains dark colored tannins which is created when pine needles, leaves, grasses and other organic matter get into the water and break down over time, giving it a dark tea-stained look. This water might be perceived as polluted by some, but it is not. This process is naturally-occurring within our lakes. Similar lakes can be found in Walton County.
The City of Panama City Beach maintains the Lullwater and other outfalls and tries to keep the discharge directed straight towards the Gulf to prevent meandering to neighboring properties. This is a challenge, however, as changes in the tide and surf make maintenance difficult. We are currently working on plans for Segment 3 of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) which will include a component to improve or change the outfall pipe at Lullwater. This would potentially extend the outfall approximately 50 feet towards the water’s edge which would reduce the area of the channel.
To reiterate, these discolored outflows are a unique aspect of our lake ecosystem. They are naturally occurring fresh-water flows from spring-fed lakes and are not harmful or polluted. The City will continue to work to educate both our locals and our tourists on this issue and would suggest that condos and resort properties assist in these educational efforts.
The Florida Department of Health provides water quality sampling along our beaches to ensure our water remains healthy for public and marine life use. Water reports can be found here: Beach Water
Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 233-5100.