alligator in L36 canal

Water Safety Around Drainage Canals

Water safety is a priority in South Florida

During hot summer months, District canals can appear to be an ideal place to cool off and swim or spend a day fishing. However, it is important to understand these inviting waterways can be very dangerous to the public.

District canals were not created for recreational use. They are designed to collect and convey stormwater in order to provide both flood control and water supply for residents and businesses. This includes operation of large water control structures which when opened can create a sudden rise or lowering in a canal’s water elevation, as well as strong currents that may not be visible on the water’s surface. Additionally, canal banks and associated rights-of-way do not have protective barriers and canal banks can give way due to the soft sand and rocks below. Once in the water, it can be very difficult to climb out due to the steep side slope of the canal bank. There can also be many invisible dangers and submerged hazards in canals such as broken glass, scrap metal, bottles and cans, as well as wild animals such as alligators and snakes. Diving into a drainage canal is particularly dangerous because canal depths can vary and subsurface aquatic vegetation can tangle around extremities.

Please follow these safety tips to avoid drowning or injury:

  • Don’t swim in canals
  • Keep a safe distance from canal side slopes
  • Stay away from water control structures
  • Never jump or dive into a canal to rescue pets or objects such as toys

For more safety tips on water safety, visit the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County’s website at

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Community Flood Control Maintenance

Learn how to care for your community’s drainage infrastructure
Flood control in South Florida is a shared responsibility and is achieved through an interconnected, three-tiered drainage system. Neighborhood drainage systems, or tertiary systems, are operated by property owners or residential associations. Secondary flood control canals are operated by the Lake Worth Drainage District and primary flood control is provided by the South Florida Water Management District. An important flood control action involves residential associations performing year-round maintenance on their drainage system, ensuring that internal control structures, swales, drains and outfall pipes have an unobstructed flow. In addition, property landscape maintenance and removal of any encroachments on canal rights-of-way is imperative to avoid potential blockages in canals and to provide a clear path for large equipment should emergency access be required. Getting To Know Your Drainage System is a video that will assist property managers and community drainage committee members learn how to inspect and maintain their drainage system. In addition, presentations can be arranged to help educate those individuals responsible for the community drainage system. To schedule a presentation, send a request to
Getting To Know Your Drainage System
Getting to Know Your Drainage System 18min. Video.
Water Control Structure No. 3

Reflecting on a Century of Flood Control

The history and future of the District’s flood control mission

The Lake Worth Drainage District encompasses more than 200 square miles (128,000 acres) in southeastern Palm Beach County and provides flood control for its service area by maintaining approximately 500 miles of canals. While the canal network itself has not changed significantly over the past 100 years, the numerous water control structures have evolved with improving technologies.
The original spillways used cumbersome lumber weirs, which were very labor intensive to adjust. In the 1980’s, these weirs were replaced by state-of-the-art gated spillway structures with motor-driven gate lifting mechanisms. While these systems were powered, they still required a human to be on-site to make the necessary gate adjustments. Today, these same structures are being retrofitted with the next generation of automated computerized gate controls to allow for remote operation of gates in response to elevated canal levels.
From the 1960’s through the 1980’s, water supply pumping stations were added to the District’s water resource system. These pumps work together to maintain adequate groundwater recharge to support both agricultural and urban supplemental irrigation demands. The system also recharges the aquifers that serve several municipal wellfields in the region. Many people who are new to South Florida are not aware that in order to support a thriving urban and agricultural community, flood control and water supply must be balanced effectively. While excess water must be discharged during wet periods to minimize the risk of flooding, some water must be held back in order to recharge the groundwater during dry periods.
Presently, the District is in the midst of a significant Capital Improvement Program, which includes refurbishment of the major water control structures and construction of new buildings/culverts. The District is also installing a telemetry system to allow remote 24/7 flood control operations. Moving forward into the next century, the Lake Worth Drainage District will continue to meet he needs of the communities it serves.
Hurricane Season

Tropical Storm Erika

The Lake Worth Drainage District is monitoring Tropical Storm Erika and actively preparing our flood control system.  In anticipation of potential rainfall, the District has opened flood control gates and is currently lowering canal elevations.

Additionally, neighborhoods are permitted to open their internal discharge structures on Friday, August 28 at noon with closures no later than 5:00 pm on Saturday, August 29. It is important for neighborhood property managers to closely monitor internal discharge structures and follow District protocols on openings and closures. Leaving neighborhood structures open longer than permitted can lead to flooding when canal water levels rise in response to rainfall and water flows back into neighborhoods.

The District is encouraging all communities to inspect their drainage facilities and perform any necessary flood protection maintenance. Flood control in Palm Beach County is a shared responsibility and is achieved through a three-tiered drainage system. Neighborhood drainage systems, or tertiary systems, are operated by property owners or residential associations. Secondary flood control canals are operated by the Lake Worth Drainage District, and primary flood control is provided by the South Florida Water Management District.

Stay safe during and after a storm event.  Do not attempt to walk or drive through flooded areas. Flooding may cause familiar places to change, making it difficult to discern roads and sidewalks from canals and lakes.  Also, floodwater may be unsanitary and there may be downed power lines or other hazards that are not visible.

Click here for the most recent information on Tropical Storm Erika and to sign up for future storm-related e-notifications.

birds flying

Lake Worth Lagoon: “A Local Treasure”

The Lake Worth Lagoon’s past, present and future

The Lake Worth Lagoon is located in more than the city of Lake Worth, Florida. In fact, the Lake Worth Lagoon borders 13 municipalities.  Approximately 20 miles long, the Lagoon extends from North Palm Beach south to Ocean Ridge and Boynton Beach. It is separated from the ocean by two barrier islands known as Singer Island and Palm Beach Island. Click here to download map.

In the 1870’s, when settlers moved into the Lake Worth area, there were no permanent inlets connecting the Lake Worth Lagoon to the ocean. This is likely why the Seminole Indians named the Lagoon “Hypoluxo” meaning “water all around – no get out.” By 1877, pioneers looking for a faster means of transportation constructed the first stable inlet connecting the Lagoon to the ocean. Today, there are two man-made inlets, the Lake Worth Inlet and the South Lake Worth Inlet also called the Boynton Inlet.

Relatively narrow and approximately a half-mile wide, the Lake Worth Lagoon is often mistaken for the Intracoastal Waterway, which is the navigation channel spanning the Lagoon’s entire length. The Lagoon is actually the entire waterbody, not just the navigable route through it. As Palm Beach County’s largest estuary, the Lagoon is home to many threatened species such as Florida manatees and green sea turtles, as well as a wide variety of wading birds.

Download full size map

Beyond the shores of the Lagoon is a large watershed of approximately 550 square miles. A watershed is an area of land where all stormwater drains into one place. In the case of the Lake Worth Lagoon watershed, the final destination of stormwater drainage most often is the Lagoon. Within the Lagoon watershed, thousands of people live, work and play. This is important to note because when a portion of the watershed receives heavy rainfall the stormwater runoff from rooftops, backyards and roadways can travel through storm drains and drainage canals all the way to the Lagoon. Along the way, the stormwater runoff can pick-up pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, oil or trash which can flow directly into the Lagoon. Three freshwater canals, the Earman River/Canal C-17, the West Palm Beach Canal/Canal C-51 and the C. Stanley Weaver Canal/Canal C-16, flow directly into the Lagoon. Stormwater discharges through these three canals, although necessary, can severely stress the ecosystem of the Lagoon.

Download paddling guide

Non-profit organizations, community groups and government agencies have worked for more than 20 years to improve the Lagoon’s water quality, restore wildlife habitat and prevent pollution. The Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative was established in 2008 as a way to coordinate efforts and inform the public. Many large-scale restoration projects have been undertaken and scientists are observing many positive effects from these projects. Seagrass is growing beneath the water’s surface, fish are swimming among the mangroves, and several varieties of birds have been seen nesting throughout the Lagoon. In addition, the projects are enhancing recreational opportunities related to fishing, paddling and boating.

Download map of completed projects

But more can be done by citizens to help the Lagoon. First, use fertilizer and   lawn chemicals wisely. Apply them only when needed and during non-rainy days to prevent the chemicals from washing down stormwater drains and making their way to the Lagoon. Second, throw waste items in their proper containers like recycling bins or trash cans. Litter on the ground or in canals can wash into the Lagoon. Third, pick-up after pet waste and dispose of it property. Finally, help spread the word in your community about this local treasure. Tell them about the Lake Worth Lagoon and its watershed and how they may be unintentionally adding to the pollutants that affect the Lagoon’s ecosystem.

For more information about the Lake Worth Lagoon and ways to help, visit the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative’s website at or call the PBC Department of Environmental Resources Management at 561-233-2400.