The Lake Worth Drainage District’s (LWDD) stormwater management system is made up of the canal channels, rights-of-way on each side of the canals, 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 provides effective flood control and water supply for residents, businesses, and agriculture within its boundary.
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 an eyesore is often considered well-maintained for flood control operations by water managers.
Some of the necessary components for effective flood control include the free flow of water in the canal channels 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 control, canal bank mowing, and encroachment removal, effective flood control maintenance is achieved.
There are numerous species of aquatic plants found within the LWDD’s canal system. Some aquatic vegetation has the potential to slow the flow of water within the canal channel or control structures. This vegetation growth is controlled with the application of herbicides and/or mechanical removal. Although not esthetically pleasing to some property owners, algae in canals is not a threat to flood control. Because algae are very small plants that break apart easily, they can pass through drainage pipes and control structures. This is good news since the herbicide used to treat algae can be harmful to the water body.
Canal rights-of-way and banks are mowed approximately 3 to 4 times a year. Flat-mowers mow the rights-of-way, and arm-mowers maintain the side slopes of the canals. High grass does not prevent access to canals or threaten flood control operations. It is not uncommon for grasses to grow several inches in height before mowing crews return to an area.
To enhance their property, residents adjacent to a canal sometimes place unauthorized vegetation or structures such as swing-sets, fences, and sheds on LWDD’s right-of-way. Encroachments must be removed because they may fall into the canal during high wind events causing blockages or slowing the progression of drainage. Additionally, encroachments can obscure sightlines for visual inspections, and impede LWDD’s access which is a critical component for public safety.
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 inland, are assessed at the same tax rate. In 2021 the assessed rate is $49.50 for a parcel equal to or less than an acre in size. By operating its stormwater management system to well-maintained flood control standards, LWDD can achieve its mission of effective flood control at a fair and affordable cost for all its residents.