The Peace River

Southern Water Use Caution Area

The Southern Water Use Caution Area, or SWUCA, was established by the District’s Governing Board in 1992. A water use caution area is an area where water resources are or will become critical in the next 20 years. The SWUCA was created to facilitate better management of all the water resources in the Southern West-Central Groundwater Basin, which encompasses the Peace River and its watershed.

The SWUCA covers an area of about 5,100 square miles. It includes DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties, and sections of Polk, Hillsborough, Highlands and Charlotte counties.

Over the past 150 years there have been substantial changes to the Peace River watershed. These changes have included clearing, draining and re-contouring of lands for residential and commercial purposes, transportation, agriculture, recreation, timbering, power generation, ore and mineral extraction, and other land uses. These land uses have required extensive withdrawals of ground water that have resulted in significant declines in the level of the Upper Floridan aquifer, resulting in saltwater intrusion along the coast, lowered lake levels along the ridge recharge area and loss of flow in the upper Peace River.

If streamflows and lake levels in the region are allowed to fall below certain thresholds, damage can occur to habitats and water resources. District scientists have determined these safe thresholds, called minimum flows and levels, for many water bodies within the SWUCA, including the upper and middle sections of the Peace River. When minimum flows and levels are not being met, a recovery strategy is developed by the District.

The upper Peace River has been particularly impacted by these alterations, such that at times, the upper river stops flowing. The SWUCA recovery strategy calls for a series of projects, such as restoring historic storage in Lake Hancock and releasing flows during the dry season to restore the upper river.

Next section: Tributaries