In 1987 the Florida Legislature created the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act to protect, restore and maintain Florida’s highly threatened surface water bodies. Under this act, the state’s five water management districts identify a list of priority water bodies within their authority and implement plans to improve them.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program is administered through the Resource Data & Restoration Department, which is responsible for many of the District’s water quality and natural systems initiatives. With the help of state agencies, local governments and other organizations, the SWIM Program focuses on water quality and habitat restoration projects to accomplish these department initiatives.
Currently, the District’s ten priority water bodies include Tampa Bay, Rainbow River, Banana Lake, Crystal River/Kings Bay, Lake Panasoffkee, Charlotte Harbor, Lake Tarpon, Lake Thonotosassa, Winter Haven Chain of Lakes and Sarasota Bay. The list of priority water bodies is updated periodically to reflect changes in the health of individual water bodies.
In order to sustain good water quality throughout west-central Florida. The SWIM Program evaluates priority water bodies, identifies potential problems and implements projects to improve their water quality.
Over the years, Florida’s expansive growth and increase in urbanization have altered or eliminated many natural plant and animal habitats. These habitats play a significant role in the state’s economy by influencing the commercial fishing, recreational and tourism industries. The SWIM Program focuses on improving and protecting these natural ecosystems for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.
SWIM projects focus on reducing the pollution in stormwater runoff by reducing excess nutrients and other pollutants which affect water quality. The District and its partners have implemented projects which have provided water quality treatment of more than 46,000 acres of watershed.
SWIM projects also restore degraded or destroyed natural systems, enhance existing habitats, and promote the preservation of natural habitats. Since 1987, the SWIM Program has restored over 3,000 acres of freshwater, estuarine, and upland habitat.