Graphic of a residential septic system

Flooding And Septic Systems

During floods or heavy rains, the soil around the septic tank and in the drain field becomes saturated, or water-logged, and the effluent from the septic tank cannot properly drain through the soil. Special care needs to be taken with your septic system during and after a flood or heavy rain.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers these guidelines:

  • Relieve pressure on the septic system by using it less or preferably not at all until floodwaters recede and the soil has drained. For your septic system to work properly, water needs to drain freely in the drain field. Under flooded conditions, water cannot drain properly and can back up into your system. Remember that in most homes all water sent down the pipes goes into the septic system. This includes shower drains and washing machines.
  • Avoid digging around the septic tank and drain field while the soil is waterlogged. Don’t drive heavy vehicles or equipment over the drain field. By using heavy equipment or working under water-logged conditions, you can compact the soil in your drain field, and water won’t be able to drain properly.
  • Don’t open or pump out the septic tank if the soil is still saturated. Silt and mud can get into the tank if it is opened and can end up in the drain field, reducing its drainage capability. Pumping under these conditions can cause a tank to pop out of the ground.
  • How can you tell if your system is damaged? Signs include soil settling, wastewater starts backing up into household drains, the soil in the drain field remains soggy and never fully drains, a foul odor persists around the tank and drain field. If you suspect your system has been damaged, have the tank inspected and serviced by a professional.
  • Keep rainwater drainage systems away from the septic drain field. As a preventive measure, make sure that water from roof gutters doesn’t drain into your septic drain field. This adds an additional source of water that the drain field must process.
  • If your household relies on private well water for home consumption and your property has flooded, it is important to have your well water tested for bacteria (total coliform and E. coli) through your county health department or a private certified lab.

By taking special care with your septic system after flooding, you can contribute to the health of your household, community and environment.

Excerpt from University of Florida IFAS, Savanna Barry, Regional Specialized Extension Agent Cedar Key FL, Aug. 2023,

C. Stanley Weaver Canal sign at bank of canal

Canal Maintenance-What To Expect

The Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) stormwater management system consists of canal channels, rights-of-way on each side of the canal and controls structures and pumps. Consisting of a network of more than 500 miles of canals, over 1,000 miles of rights-of-way and 20 major control structures, LWDD can provide effective flood control and water supply for residents, businesses, and agriculture.

Effective stormwater management is dependent on well-maintained canals and rights-of-way. But what defines “well-maintained”? A canal or right-of-way that some property owners may consider in need of maintenance is often considered well-maintained by LWDD.

Some of the necessary components for effective flood control include the free flow of water in the canal channel to divert excess stormwater from properties, and unencumbered canal rights-of-way to provide access for regular maintenance and emergency response. Through the process of aquatic vegetation removal and canal bank mowing, effective flood control maintenance is achieved.

There are numerous species of aquatic plants found within the District’s canal system. Some aquatic vegetation has the potential to slow the flow of water within the canal channel or large flood control structures. This vegetation growth is controlled with the application of herbicides and/or mechanical removal.

Canal rights-of-way and banks are mowed approximately 3-4 times a year. Flat-mowers mow the rights-of-way, and arm-mowers maintain the side slopes of the canals. This mowing schedule prevents the growth of woody vegetation that may grow to impact access and threaten flood control. Tall grass does not prevent access to canals and control structures or threaten flood control operations. Frequent mowing is not required for flood control and residents should note that grasses and other vegetation can grow several inches in height before mowing crews return to an area.

Although most property lines do not extend to the water’s edge, some property owners adjacent to the right-of-way may choose to maintain the grass to a higher degree through irrigation and more frequent mowing. However, this higher degree of maintenance is at the resident’s cost and the planting of trees and shrubs are not allowed within the LWDD rights-of-way.

Flood control and the maintenance it requires comes at a cost. All property owners within LWDD’s boundary, whether adjacent to a canal or miles away, are assessed at the same tax rate. In 2023 the assessed rate is $49.50 for a parcel equal to or less than an acre in size. By maintaining our canals and rights-of-way to flood control standards, LWDD can achieve its mission of effective flood control at an affordable cost for all residents.

Outside HVAC unit raised above ground

Flood Protection Tips for Associations

The increased severity of tropical storm events and shifting rainfall patterns pose many challenges. Whenever the volume of water on land overcomes the capacity of natural and built drainage systems to carry it away, flooding can result. But steps can be taken to mitigate some of the damage caused by flooding.

The following is not an all-inclusive list but a kick start for your community to begin planning and budgeting for future mitigation projects.

  • Drainage Systems – Aging and overloaded stormwater systems can be updated to allow water to be moved, stored, and drained more efficiently.
  • Gutters – Removing leaves and other debris from clogged gutters and downspouts can prevent water from pooling around a building’s foundation. Be sure to locate the down spout in the proper direction. A down spout should never directly discharge into a canal or other water body but instead be directed to grassed or rocked areas that will allow the stormwater to slowly seep into the ground.
  • Building Exteriors – A form of “dry flood-proofing,” the application of painted coatings and sealants that you apply to your foundation, walls, windows and doorways will help prevent flood water from leaking into your structure through cracks or penetrations where utilities may come through.
  • Re-grading Property– Adjusting the slope (grade) around a building’s foundation can help stormwater flow more easily away from the building and toward drainage systems like street drains or swale areas. Re-grading may be especially effective for older communities where the grade may have settled over time or been modified by landscaping.
  • Raising Building Systems – HVAC systems and electric panels raised or relocated to above flood levels can prevent future damage to expensive systems.
  • Permeable Pavement – Permeable pavement is a type of paving material that is highly pervious and allows rainwater to pass through it, which reduces runoff. By reducing runoff, permeable pavement manages stormwater and decreases flood risk.
  • Rain Gardens -This type of green infrastructure is designed and built to mitigate stormwater flooding. A rain garden is a garden in a depressed area of a landscape that is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rainwater while providing a pleasing look to the landscape.

The Lake Worth Drainage District is committed to assisting communities within our boundary to be more informed and more resilient to potential flooding. Please visit our website for more information at

Flooded kitchen

Your Flood Probability

Within the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) boundary, some homes and businesses are constructed in areas known as the 1 in 100-year flood plain but have experienced multiple floods in the same year. The assumption that if their area has experienced a 1 in 100-year flood, then for the next 99 years they do not have to worry about flooding is not correct. While it is unlikely that two large storms will happen in close succession, history has demonstrated that it is possible.

Confused by the term 1 in 100-year flood, people begin to wonder what their flood risk really is. The definition of a 1 in 100-year flood is a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. Understanding your flood risk can be a complex process, but the hydrologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are striving to communicate risk more effectively, in part by transitioning away from the term 1 in 100-year flood and instead referencing multiple year flooding probabilities. For example, the flooding risk of a home in the 1 in 100-year floodplain can be more easily understood as a home with a 26% chance it will flood over the course of a 30-year mortgage. Providing a clearer understanding of the probability of flood risk allows for better protection of people and buildings.

The USGS has published a flyer discussing in detail the probability of flood risk. You can download a copy at

Woman in hard hat

Automation For Faster Response

South Florida’s tropical weather events can be intense and seriously threaten property and life. In response, the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) monitors canal elevations and makes necessary operational adjustments to its water control structures to provide flood control for the 200 square miles of land within its boundary.

Water control structures act like dams, allowing stormwater to be released or held back depending on weather conditions. The technology used to operate LWDD’s water control structures is called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). As the water rises in the canal and reaches a pre-determined elevation, SCADA will slowly open control structures releasing water for flood control. Similarly, as water elevations return to normal levels the control structure gates will close, holding back water for conservation and water supply demands.

This response to changes in the canal system happens automatically and can be monitored remotely by staff using mobile devices. However, in anticipation of severe weather, staff can override the automated SCADA system and make manual adjustments as needed. The remote monitoring and operating functions of SCADA eliminates the need for LWDD staff to venture out during dangerous weather conditions to operate control structures, as well as significantly reduces response time.

Another advantage to SCADA is the capture of operational data by the system which can be used to evaluate future water supply needs and historical flood control responses. This data can be shared with regional water management partners for enhanced flood control coordination and water conservation measures.

LWDD is proud to provide the residents and businesses within our boundary this advanced flood control technology.