Fallen tree and fence on canal right of way

Flood Control Resiliency

Hurricane Ian made landfall as a category 4 storm on September 28, 2022, on the west coast of Florida. This powerful storm brought with it winds of 140 mph and torrential rain. It reminds all of us at the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) how important it is for public safety to have a well maintained and operating drainage system.

Effective drainage includes the free flow of water in the canal channel and unrestricted rights-of-way for regular maintenance activities as well as emergency response. Obstruction of drainage whether over the ground or within the canal channel can have devastating effects. During severe storms trees and large shrubs can topple over causing blockages in storm drains, swale areas or flood control structures. Blockages significantly increase the risk of flooding of homes, businesses and may lead to potential life-threatening events. Additionally, encroachments on the rights-of-way can severely hinder LWDD’s use of heavy equipment needed to keep residents safe during and after severe storms.

In response to the increased frequency and intensity of our hurricanes, tropical depressions, and thunderstorms, LWDD addressed flood resiliency and established the Canal Rehabilitation Program. Phase 1 of the program addresses removal of vegetative encroachments within the right-of-way and some structural encroachments that are limiting access to the canal. Phase 1 which was established in 2018 is expected to be completed in 2023.

Phase 2 of the Canal Rehabilitation program will continue to enhance LWDD’s flood control resiliency by addressing unauthorized structural encroachments, such as fences, sheds and patios, located within the canal rights-of-way which restricts maintenance access. These encroachments will be identified and prioritized for removal. Removal of the encroachments is required and is at the expense of the property owner. Dredging and reshaping of some canal channels may be performed during Phase 2 for increased function and operation of the system.

LWDD residents, both adjacent to canals and miles inland, will benefit from enhanced flood control as well as reduced cost in post-storm clean-up. Another benefit to vegetation and encroachment removal is the faster return of residential power following a storm event as an unencumbered right-of-way will facilitate utility restoration efforts.

Hurricane Ian may have passed by Palm Beach County, but it is only time until the next storm takes aim at our coast.  LWDD is committed to providing the best possible flood control for our residents today and in the future.

Tommy Strowd sitting in front of mic

Podcast -Tommy Strowd on Water Supply

Executive Director Tommy Strowd’s appearance on the Friends of Delray Podcast where he discusses the future of water supply in our area.

Watch Podcast 

man picking up trash from storm drain

Prevent Flooding – Adopt A Storm Drain

Everyone knows that trash is not good for our waterways, but many people unwittingly contribute to water pollution because they do not understand that “natural” trash like leaves, grass clippings and pet waste can become pollutants when they enter the water. Additionally, storm drains are part of the local flood control system helping to move storm water away from homes and businesses. They act as a conduit discharging storm water into local stormwater ponds and drainage canals.

When organic debris like leaves and grass wash down a storm drain, they decompose and release nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen. These nutrients are food for algae and other aquatic plants. Additionally, people can add to the nutrient load by applying fertilizers which can wash down storm drains after a rain.

Debris blocking storm drains can be a local flooding hazard. Even an average afternoon rainstorm can cause local street flooding if the water has nowhere to go. Just a small number of organic debris and trash on top of a drain grate can reduce drainage capacity. By keeping the storm drain clear of debris, it can function as designed allowing storm water to flow away from your home and discharge into flood control canals.

Some helpful tools for cleaning a storm drain include: a broom, a rake, a trash grabber, gloves, an orange cone and/or safety vest, a shovel or dustpan and a pail or yard waste bag. Never remove the grate or otherwise attempt to clean inside the catch basin. Clean only the surface of the storm drain grate and the area around it. If the drain seems to be plugged or have any problems, contact your community board/property manager or local municipality to address the issue.

Adopting a storm drain only takes a small amount of your time. Let friends and neighbors know about your commitment and invite them to adopt a storm drain too. When we all sweep up, rake up and pick up, we protect our properties and waterways.

interior of home flooded

The Chance Your Home May Flood

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’s 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, many 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, a home in the 1 in 100-year flood plain, may be better 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 decisions to be made to better protect people and buildings.

The USGS has published a flyer discussing in detail the probability of flood risk. You can download a copy at https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/106/pdf/100-year-flood-handout-042610.pdf

person standing in muddy grassed area

Water VIP: Soil Saturation And Drainage

Many factors must be considered by the water managers at Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) when managing a rain event. One factor not often thought of by the average person is the varying water content in the soil which can have a significant impact on the drainage rate and flood control operations.

When dry soil is crushed in the hand, you can see how it is composed of all kinds of particles of different sizes. Most of these particles originate from the degradation of rocks; they are called mineral particles. Some originate from residues of plants or animals; these are called organic particles. The soil particles seem to touch each other, but a much closer look will show there are spaces in between the particles. These spaces are called pores. When the soil is “dry” the pores are mainly filled with air. After irrigation or rainfall, the pores are mainly filled with water.

When it rains, water is applied to the land, and it begins to seep into the soil. This process is called infiltration. The infiltration rate of a soil is the velocity at which water on the surface can seep into it. The rate of infiltration is affected by the texture of the soil. For example, the infiltration of water into a sandy soil is faster than into a clay soil because the texture of clay is much denser than the sandy soil. The infiltration rate of a soil also depends on the existing soil moisture content. The water infiltrates faster when the soil is dry, rather than when it is wet. You can see this when it has been raining for an extended period. Puddling or pooling of water will occur.

If all soil pores are filled with water the soil is said to be saturated and there is little to no air left between the soil particles. It is easy to determine if soil is saturated. If a handful of saturated soil is squeezed, some muddy water will run between your fingers. The period of saturation of the topsoil usually does not last long. After the rain has stopped, part of the water present in the larger pores at the top will move downward. This process is called drainage or percolation. In coarse textured sandy soils, drainage is completed within a period of a few hours. In fine textured clay soils, drainage may take 2-3 days.

The type of soil and degree of saturation is a consideration when managing  water. The flood control function is a balancing act. Water managers must provide adequate drainage for flood control while holding back water for future supply needs. The LWDD has over 100 years of experience in managing the flood control in southeastern Palm Beach County. For more information on water management visit our website at www.lwdd.net.