For more information, please email the Community & Legislative Affairs Department.
The eight-county region known as the Southern Water Use Caution Area (SWUCA) is experiencing environmental impacts associated with depleted aquifer levels caused by an overreliance on ground water that has spanned decades.
In response to growing demands from public supply, agriculture, mining, power generation and recreational users, groundwater withdrawals in the SWUCA steadily increased for nearly a century before peaking in the mid-1970s. These withdrawals resulted in declines in aquifer levels throughout the groundwater basin, which in some areas exceeded 50 feet.
Although groundwater withdrawals have stabilized, depressed aquifer levels continue to result in saltwater intrusion, reduced flows in the upper Peace River and lowered lake levels.
The SWUCA is an area encompassing 5,100 square miles in all or parts of eight counties in the west-central portion of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District). It includes all of Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee and DeSoto counties and portions of Hillsborough, Charlotte, Polk and Highlands counties. Water resource concerns associated with the SWUCA involve declining lake levels along the Highlands Ridge and advancing coastal saltwater intrusion in the Floridan aquifer. About 85 percent of groundwater use in the SWUCA comes from the Floridan aquifer.
Although groundwater withdrawals have since stabilized as a result of the District’s management efforts, depressed aquifer levels continue to result in saltwater intrusion, reduced flows in the upper Peace River and lowered lake levels in the Lake Wales Ridge areas of Polk and Highlands counties.
Central to the District’s mission is balancing water needs while protecting natural systems. Water sustainability is also a huge economic driver for both the region and state. The West-Central Florida Water Restoration Action Plan (WRAP) will provide significant environmental restoration as well as additional water supplies to meet the growing demands of the region.
The WRAP is an implementation plan for components of the Southern Water Use Caution Area Recovery Strategy adopted by the District. The document outlines the District’s strategy for ensuring that adequate water supplies are available to meet growing demands, while at the same time protecting and restoring the water and related natural resources of the area. The WRAP prescribes the measures to implement the recovery strategy and quantifies the monies needed, making it easier for the District to obtain funding for the initiative from state and federal sources.
The WRAP works with its local and regional partners to introduce agricultural best management practices and stormwater treatment, restore surface water storage and flows, and maximize the beneficial use of alternative supplies to further reduce groundwater withdrawals.