When the state passed the Florida Water Resources Act in 1972, five regional water management districts were created. These districts are responsible for regional water management and environmental protection.
The districts' boundaries were not determined by county or city limits, but instead by watersheds and other natural, hydrologic and geographic features. The South Florida Water Management District is the largest of the five districts and operates and maintains our region's primary drainage system. This primary drainage system is made up of the massive Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, which spans over 16 counties and includes 1,800 miles of canals and levees.
Other federal public works projects and regional flood control facilities, along with natural rivers and other waterways are part of the primary system, as well.
As part of flood protection measures, floodgates are opened and water levels are lowered in anticipation of heavy rains. During and after heavy rains, excess water is routed through all available primary waterways to regional storage areas or to coastal discharge points to relieve flooding as quickly and safely as possible. A year-round maintenance program assures top performance of the South Florida Water Management District's facilities, even under emergency conditions.
The SFWMD uses water control structures like this one to make room for incoming stormwater and to prevent flooding. In this case, water levels are dropped in the canal on the left side by opening or lifting the gate, releasing water to the other side.
And while the primary system was originally developed to provide flood control, the booming east coast population relies upon this same system to protect natural systems and maintain urban water supply.
Constant monitoring of weather conditions and water levels helps to ensure that adequate water deliveries and water levels are maintained throughout the canal system - water that is necessary to combat saltwater intrusion and provide recharge to the Biscayne Aquifer.