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Aeration in Marinas and Canals

Marina and canal systems are particularly vulnerable to oxygenation problems due to their reduced flow, increased depth, and isolation from the main waterbody. These systems can be fresh, marine, brackish, or have variable salinity. Since these waterbodies are often heavily traveled by boats, pollution adds to the challenges of keeping these areas healthy and aesthetically pleasing. Aeration reduces the variability experienced in these systems while improving water quality through oxygenation.


Many of the problems experienced in canals and marinas can be attributed to the reduced water flow in and out of these systems from the main water body. Once materials make their way into a marina, they have difficulty getting out. With boats constantly bringing in pollutants and organic materials from outside, and with the reduced flow within the system, marinas are quickly overcome by decaying materials. This leads to bad smells, algae blooms and generally poor water quality.

Tavernier Key aeration boil Detached plant material in particular tends to back up into marinas and get trapped. The increased oxygen from aeration allows these materials to be broken down naturally without causing anoxia. Anoxia slows the breakdown of organic materials and produces smelly hydrogen sulfide gas while encouraging the release of nutrients that accelerate algae growth. In addition to starving algae of nutrients, the increased flow from aeration discourages harmful algal blooms since these types of algae prefer stagnant water.

Flow and oxygenation encourage the breakdown of some non-organic compounds from boats, while still allowing for the settling of those compounds that cannot be broken down. A properly installed aeration system will not encourage the resuspension of harmful chemical compounds like dredging.

Hurricane Wilma turned our clean canal dark and murky and was unfit for swimming. Strict regulations in the Florida Keys prevented dredging so we installed a Vertex pond aeration system. 5 years later and aerating in the harshest environment, the system is still working as great as the day we installed it. We have a crystal clear canal with lots of fish that is completely swimmable and the constant movement prevents the grass from coming in the canal. - Dr. Michelle Bruzzo Tavernier Key

Buttonwood Bay aerial view of aeration boils Many marina and canal systems are located near the ocean. Consequently, these waterbodies often have brackish water that experiences wide swings in salinity with storms or seasonal change. Mixing the water with an aeration system helps to buffer these changes. Freshwater tends to float on top of saltwater, and saltwater encourages anoxia due to the decreased capacity of marine water to hold oxygen. Storm events can cause abrupt turnover events that rapidly displace the oxygen present at the surface, resulting in fish kills.

When the water remains oxygenated and the salinity mixed, the waterbody is better equipped to handle weather events and seasonal changes. In addition to environmental improvements, aeration can assist with mechanical issues experienced around marinas and canals. For example, in the winter, small aeration systems can be deployed near docks, boats and other equipment in the water to prevent freezing and damage from ice. A system can be placed on a temperature triggered switch so that it only runs when there is a danger of freezing.

Every marina or canal could benefit from a properly sized and installed aeration system. These difficult systems improve dramatically with aeration, whether your concerns are aesthetic, ecological, or functional. -

Amanda Quillen, Ph.D.

Download the Aerating Canals and Marinas PDF

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