The Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan

Excerpt from South Florida Water Management District’s Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan Update 2018, Executive Summary

The South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) strategic goal for its water supply plans is to identify sufficient water supply sources and projects to meet existing and future reasonable-beneficial uses during 1-in-10-year drought conditions while sustaining water resources and related natural systems.

The 2018 Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan (LEC) is the third update to the 2000 Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan, which previously was updated in 2006 and 2013. The LEC Plan is consistent with the water supply planning requirements of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes, and presents population and water demand projections through 2040, a review of water supply issues and evaluations, and a list of water source options. It also examines local and regional water supply efforts completed and describes water resource and water supply development projects -projected to 2040.

The LEC Plan is developed in an open, public forum. Multiple meetings and workshops are held with water users, local governments, utilities, as well as agriculture, industry, and environmental representatives to solicit input, provide information about planning results, and receive comments on draft sections of the plan update.

The LEC Planning Area covers more than 6,500 square miles of southeastern Florida, including all of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, most of Monroe County, and portions of eastern Hendry and Collier counties. The LEC Planning Area includes unique and critical ecosystems such as the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, and the Loxahatchee River. These ecosystems coexist with large agricultural areas around Lake Okeechobee and in southern Miami-Dade County, and with expansive urban areas housing 30 percent of the state’s population.

Typically, the LEC Planning Area receives abundant rainfall seasonally, with volumes exceeding human and natural system needs during wet periods. Annual precipitation averages 57 inches, with three-quarters of rainfall occurring between May and October. Water availability varies annually with periodic drought years. There is an extensive network of canals and waterworks used for water supply and flood control in the LEC Planning Area. The regional water management system plays a critical role in capturing wet season stormwater for use during dry times, moving water between natural systems, delivering water to agricultural areas and urban coastal communities, and moving excess water to tide to provide flood protection. Fresh groundwater from the surficial aquifer system and surface water from Lake Okeechobee are the primary water sources for urban, agricultural, and industrial uses in the LEC Planning Area.

Climate change and sea level rise are issues of concern, especially in coastal regions such as South Florida. South Florida is particularly vulnerable to potential changes in climate and sea level because of its location, regional variability in climate, hydrology, geology, low topography, natural resources, and dense population in coastal areas. To plan and prepare for regional climate change and sea level rise, the SFWMD is conducting research and computer modeling to better predict and reduce uncertainties, analyzing vulnerabilities in the current water management system, and developing effective adaptation strategies for the future. Coordination with other resource management entities and governments is vital to ensuring a common approach and shared information moving forward.

Successful implementation of the LEC Plan requires close coordination and collaboration with local governments, utilities, agricultural interests, and other stakeholders. This partnering should ensure water resources in the LEC Planning Area are prudently managed and available to meet future demands while also protecting the environment.

The 2018 LEC Plan Update is currently under review and scheduled for completion in 2023. Additional information on the LEC Plan Update can be found at

woman with a dog

Always Pickup After Your Pets

Pet owners within the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) should always pick up after their pets and dispose of the pet waste in household trash or in a designated container. Pet waste doesn’t just decompose and go away. It adds harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waters when it’s not disposed of properly. Pet waste should not be left on the ground and should never be put into storm drains, canals or other waterbodies.

When it rains, pet waste dissolves and can flow into stormwater management systems contributing to water pollution that can degrade water quality. The waste also causes excess nutrients which may create algae blooms and decrease oxygen levels in the water. This condition has an adverse effect on fish and other aquatic life. If not disposed of properly, pet waste not only affects water quality, but public health. The pathogens (bacteria, parasites and viruses) found in pet waste can make people ill. Pet waste can also make local waters non-swimmable and unfishable.

Pet owners should remember to:

  • Always clean up after your animals.
  • Use bags or scoopers to pick up waste.
  • Dispose of waste in pet waste containers or in your household trash.
  • Do not put pet waste into storm drains or on the road.
  • When traveling, carry extra bags in the car to have on hand to clean up after your pet.
  • Remind other pet owners to pick up after their pet.
  • Avoid letting your pet do his business within 200 feet of a water body.

Pet waste is seemingly a small source of pollution but over time it can add up to big problems for water quality, and even human health.

Person filling jug with used cooking oil

Tom Turkey Has A Message For You

Fried turkeys are a holiday treat, but the mess from all that oil is less enticing. After a wonderful meal and it’s time to clean-up, do you know what to do with that left-over cooking oil?

You can store used cooking oil to reuse later. If you plan to reuse your cooking oil, you should choose high-quality oil with a high smoking point and strain it through cheesecloth between each use. Store the used cooking oil in a cool, dry place in a sealed container. Or if you choose to dispose of it, do not pour it down your drain. That can cause costly damage to your home plumbing, sewage collection system or septic system. Additionally, do not dispose of used cooking oil in your garden, down a storm drain or into a canal. Once the oil enters the water system it becomes a pollutant and may cause serious harm to water quality and marine life.

To dispose of cooking oil properly, carefully pour the cooled used cooking oil into a large, sturdy plastic container no larger than 5 gallons in size. Don’t mix the used cooking oil with any other liquids or products. Cap it tightly and drop it off at one of the Solid Waste Authority’s Home Chemical and Recycling Centers. For drop-off locations and more information contact the Solid Waste Authority at 561-640-4000 or visit their website at

Algae in water

Algal Blooms In Our Waterbodies

Recent hot and rainy Summer weather conditions have set the stage for algal blooms in our rivers, lakes, ponds, and canals. Like many people across the State, residents of the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) may have concerns or confusion about these blooms. To help answer some frequently asked questions, we are providing the following information about algae.

Algae are simple organisms that grow through photosynthesis, a process by which sunlight is used to metabolize nutrients. Algae are a basic component of the food chain and are commonly found in marine, estuarine, freshwater lakes, canal systems, stormwater ponds and even swimming pools. Algae appear as green, red, or yellowish-brown particles that float on the water surface.

Although algae are a normal component of an aquatic ecosystem, nutrient-rich waters warmed by the sun provide a favorable medium for the overgrowth. This overgrowth is called an ‘algal bloom’. For algal blooms to occur two things must be present: high concentration of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and adequate sunlight. We cannot control sunlight, but we can limit our nutrient impact to surrounding waterbodies with proper maintenance of septic tank systems and limited use of fertilizers on landscapes and lawns. Currently approved herbicide or chemical treatments for the removal of algae uses a heavy metal compound that may adversely impact the waterbody. However, scientists are studying new treatments for the control of algae and safer alternatives may become available in the future.

While visually unappealing, most algae is not harmful to human health and provides a food source for aquatic life. However, some types, like “Blue-green” algae, which is a cyanobacteria, secrete toxins that may be harmful. The algae toxins can be inhaled by people living around the waterbody. It will aggravate respiratory illnesses like asthma. Symptoms of exposure to toxic algae include difficulty breathing, wheezing, skin rashes, headaches, and possible tingling in the fingers and toes. If water containing toxic algae is consumed potential liver damage may occur. It is important to keep humans and pets away from waterbodies that have toxic algal blooms and seek medical advice if symptoms appear.

Since most types of algae found within LWDD’s canals are non-toxic and do not impact flood control operations, LWDD does not regularly treat the canal system for algal blooms. Most algae growth in our canals is harmless and will dissipate on its own or will be flushed out of the canal system after a heavy rainfall.

Important phone numbers and links:

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

kids thumbs up

Watersheds…Why You Should Care

A watershed is an area of land where water flows or “sheds” from the highest point to the lowest point on its way to a lake, canal, another waterbody, and eventually to the ocean. It not only includes water that flows across the land (surface water), but also includes water that flows through the land (groundwater). The size of a watershed can vary. It can be small such as a modest lake or it can encompass thousands of square miles inland.

You may be familiar with our local Lake Worth Lagoon Watershed which extends from the southeastern portion of Lake Okeechobee through Palm Beach County. Within our 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 canals to adjacent waterbodies. Along the way, the runoff may pick-up pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, oil, or trash which can flow directly into the watershed causing poor water quality. Healthy watersheds provide critical services, such as clean drinking water, productive fisheries, and outdoor recreation that supports our economy, environment, and quality of life.

You can help protect the watershed by using landscape fertilizers and pesticides wisely. Apply them only when needed and during non-rainy days to prevent the chemicals from washing down storm drains and making their way into adjacent water bodies. Second, throw waste items in their proper containers like recycling bins or trash cans. Trash can easily make its way into our water bodies and in many instances the materials are not biodegradable. Third, pick-up pet waste and dispose of it properly. Pet waste and the nutrient load it produces is a contributor to local water pollution. Finally, help spread the word and let others know why we should care about the health of our watershed. You can find more information on our local watershed at