Photo of Drone

Maintenance Enhanced With Drones

Approximately three years ago, the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) began implementing the flying of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) commonly known as drones to monitor the canals, rights-of-way and flood control structures within its 200 square miles of service area.

The drones are used as a professional tool to gather data, take images and video. The ‘bird’s eye-view’ provides a unique perspective that can quickly identify issues so that corrective actions can be taken before they develop into costly repairs. Due to their small size, the drones can reach areas difficult to inspect from the ground. They perform quickly and in a repetitive manner providing accurate and consistent data. Drone flights can cover large geographical areas using a two-man crew in a stationary location. This helps minimize inspection costs and avoids exposure of personnel to possible environmental risks and injuries.

LWDD deployed its drones after Hurricanes Irma & Michael. The results were very beneficial in post-storm assessments by aiding recovery teams to efficiently identify damage sites and prioritize response efforts. The data captured by the drone flights can be mapped and used for future emergency response planning by water managers.
LWDD’s operators strictly adhere to the Federal Aviation Association’s (FAA) regulations and are cognizant of surrounding homes during flights. The District’s drone operators hold a certification from the FAA, and follow strict safety practices. The use of UAS systems is one of the more recent additions to LWDD’s flood control toolbox.

The Lake Worth Drainage District is committed to implementing new technologies that will enhance flood control operations for the estimated 750,000 residents within its boundaries. For more information on the various methods used for flood control, visit http://www.lwdd.net/managing-water/overview.

Graphic of Women with Cloud above her head and word 'stormwater'

Stormwater 101: Frequently Asked Questions

Q.   Where does the water in the LWDD canals come from?

A.   Stormwater (rainfall) is where LWDD receives most of its water supply for the canal system. However, during dry periods with low rainfall, LWDD may rely on the regional system of canals, Water Conservation Areas and sometimes Lake Okeechobee as a source of supplemental water.

Q.   Who owns the water within LWDD’s canals?

A.   In Florida, water is not a property right but rather a resource ‘shared in common’ by landowners. Groundwater and surface water (canals) are held in trust for the benefit of its citizens. Ownership of the land adjacent to a water body does not provide ownership of the water nor the right to use the water. The right to use water is regulated by the State of Florida through regional water management districts. In our area, the entity responsible is the South Florida Water Management District.

Q.   What is a drought?

A.   While it is relatively easy to define what a hurricane or an earthquake is, defining a drought is more subjective. Droughts do not have the immediate effects of floods, but sustained droughts can cause economic stress throughout an area. The word “drought” has various meanings, depending on a person’s perspective. To a farmer, a drought is a period of moisture deficiency that affects the crops under cultivation. Even two weeks without rainfall can stress many crops during certain periods of the growing cycle. To a meteorologist, a drought is a prolonged period when precipitation is less than normal. To a water manager, a drought is a deficiency in the water supply that affects water availability and water quality.

Q.   How does drought affect private and municipal well fields?

A.   The water level in the underground aquifer that supplies a well does not always remain the same. Seasonal variations in rainfall or manual pumping may affect the height of the underground water levels. If a well is pumped at a faster rate than the aquifer is recharged by rainfall or other underground water flows, then the water level in the well can be lowered. This can happen during drought, due to the deficit in the amount of rain.

Q.   Where can I find information about water restrictions in my area?

A.  To promote responsible water use and protect our valuable water resources, Palm Beach County observes the South Florida Water Management District’s Year-Round Landscape Irrigation Conservation Measures Rule. Landscape irrigation is restricted to three days a week before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Several municipalities within the Lake Worth Drainage District’s jurisdictional boundaries have adopted their own, more stringent water and irrigation conservation ordinances. Please check with your local municipality for their specific water use rules. For additional information on current water restrictions, visit the South Florida Water Management District’s website at http://www.sfwmd.gov

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Flood Control Checkup

Throughout the year, the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) oversees the operation and maintenance of approximately 500 miles of canals and 1,000 miles of canal rights-of-way. In addition, LWDD operates 20 major water control structures which release or hold back water depending on conditions. However, effective flood control takes more than just LWDD. Property owners and residential communities all have a role to play in the overall flood control system.

In South Florida, flood control is a shared responsibility and is achieved through an interconnected, three-tiered drainage system. This three-tiered system is made up of tertiary or neighborhood drainage systems operated by property owners or residential associations. Secondary drainage systems which are operated by LWDD, county or municipalities, and the primary system operated by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).

The role of property owners and residential associations is similar to LWDD in that they retain stormwater onsite in retention ponds/lakes for water quality purposes and discharge excess stormwater for flood control. They must maintain their drainage infrastructure to ensure that inlets, pipes and discharge control structures are working as designed.

South Florida’s dry season runs from approximately November through May. January is the ideal time of year to conduct inspections of drainage infrastructure and make any necessary repairs. Additionally, the start of a new year is when many residential boards hold elections and change property management companies. It is important to register these changes with LWDD to ensure the correct individuals are receiving important weather alerts and flood control instructions. Taking time during the dry season will help ensure that your property is ready for the coming rainy season. For more information on flood control or to submit contact information, visit LWDD’s website at www.lwdd.net

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Dry Season Landscapes

Water is a critical factor for healthy and attractive landscapes. The absence of adequate rainfall or irrigation can lead to drought stress and reduced plant growth. Drought stress happens when the plant’s roots cannot absorb the quantity of water needed to support normal growth processes. Even though South Florida receives an annual average of over 50 inches of rain, this rainfall is seasonal. Some plant species encounter drought stress during our dry season which lasts from approximately November to May.

During times of reduced water, plants react by cutting down on photosynthesis and other processes to reduce their water consumption. With progressive water loss, the leaves of some plant species may turn pale or brown. Foliage often withers away, and the entire plant may die. This can be a frustrating and a costly occurrence for a home gardener. So why fight mother nature? There are hundreds of landscape plants that can tolerate drought stress. A few familiar to most gardeners are the Blanket Flower with bright gold and red flowers, Firebush with colorful tube-shaped yellow-and-orange flowers and Buttonwood which can be used as an attractive hedge. Many drought-tolerant flowering plants are a favorite among butterflies and hummingbirds which can add more beauty to your landscape.

Creating a landscape design using drought-tolerant shrubs, trees and flowers can help you avoid plant loss and extensive water-use. For more information on drought-tolerant landscapes, visit the University of Florida’s website at http://www.gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/design/landscaping-for-specific-sites/planning-your-landscape-to-conserve-water.html