Watershed Excursion of the Hillsborough Riverhomelinkcredits

District coverage areaThe Southwest Florida Water Management District is the agency responsible for managing your water resources. Its job is to maintain a balance between the water needs of current and future water users without damaging the environment. The District serves 3.7 million people in a 10,000-square-mile area that covers all or part of these 16 west-central Florida counties: Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.

The District is governed by an 11-member board of volunteers from across the 16-county region, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate for a four-year term.

Water Supply

Ensuring adequate water supplies for humans and for the environment is central to the District's mission. A variety of effective water supply programs, including a Water Use Permitting program, regulate the amount of water taken from the natural resources. The District's regulatory efforts are balanced with incentives such as the New Water Sources Initiative and other Cooperative Funding projects that encourage the development and use of reclaimed water, aquifer storage and recovery, and other nontraditional sources.

Water Quality

The District is actively involved in maintaining and improving the quality of the waters within its jurisdiction. Regulatory programs such as Well Construction and Water Use Permitting prevent contamination and overuse of groundwater supplies. A quality Water Improvement Program helps plug abandoned wells to keep pollution from reaching underground resources through surface openings. The Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program helps communities improve the quality of surface waters and restore plant and animal habitats.

Flood Protection

For the first decade of existence, flood protection was the District's primary responsibility. The simplest, most effective approach to flood protection is prevention. For example, flood damage is prevented when we ensure that development takes place away from flood plains, and that it does not alter natural patterns of water movement and storage. Additionally, the District operates approximately 75 constructed water management structures. Some of them are operated in times of flood to divert water away from people. Others are used in times of low rainfall to conserve and maintain lake levels. Others serve as barriers to keep salt water from entering freshwater systems.

Natural Systems

To protect the public's water resource, the District acquires land to manage and protect natural systems. All public lands managed by the District have at least one thing in common: they assure effective stewardship of water resources. For instance, a particular property may provide flood protection, preserve water quality, or even preserve a future water supply. As an added benefit, any of the lands acquired for this purpose also are available for recreational activities such as camping, fishing, biking and hiking. The District now manages more than 300,000 acres of protected public land. The Recreational Guide to Southwest Florida Water Management District Lands is available upon request.

District In-School Education Programs

  • Educate students about their local water resources
  • Coordinate and encourage partnerships with other agencies and organizations
  • Provide students hands-on experiences with nature
  • Establish a sense of stewardship for local water resources
  • Provide materials and opportunities for students to include their families in water resources education

Southwest Florida Water Management District