60th Anniversary of the Southwest Florida Water Management District

Your Questions Answered

January 2021

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is celebrating 60 years of protecting the region’s water resources. The District was established in 1961 as a flood protection agency. Since then, its responsibilities have grown to include managing the water supply, protecting water quality and preserving natural systems that serve important water-related functions. Executive Director Brian Armstrong explains how the District works to protect water resources in the region.

Q: What is the Southwest Florida Water Management District?
A:  The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) was created in 1961 by the Florida Legislature to serve as a local sponsor for a series of federal flood control projects after Hurricane Donna caused massive flooding in the region. The District encompasses roughly 10,000 square miles in all or part of 16 counties and serves a population of nearly 6 million people. Today, the District is responsible for managing the water resources for west-central Florida as directed by state law and its mission is to protect water resources, minimize flood risks, and ensure the public’s water needs are met.

Q: Who oversees the District and where does its funding come from?
A: A 13-member Governing Board oversees District activities. Members are unpaid volunteers appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate to set policy and administer the budget. District funding comes primarily from ad valorem property taxes. While the Legislature allows a tax levy up to 1 mill ($1 for each $1,000 of assessed land value), the current millage rate is far less than the maximum at 0.2669 mill. For the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the District tax would be $26.69 a year, or about $2.22 per month.

Q: How does the District use my tax dollars?
A: More than half of the District’s current budget is dedicated to water resource projects such as restoring springs, reducing flooding and pollution, and developing alternative water supplies. Examples include $15.9 million for springs initiatives to restore springs and spring-fed rivers, improve water quality and clarity, as well as restore natural habitats; $26.3 million for Watershed Management Program plans to support floodplain management decisions and initiatives as well as address potential and existing flooding problems; and $20.9 million for development of alternative water supplies to ensure an adequate supply of water for both now and in the future.

Q: How does the District protect the water resources?
A: The District implements a wide variety of projects and programs aimed at meeting its four core areas of responsibility: water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural systems.

Water Supply: The District issues water use permits to ensure withdrawals from water bodies will not harm existing users, the water resources, or the environment. The District also contributes funding and technical expertise to local governments for programs that conserve water and develop alternative water supplies.

Flood Protection: The District operates 18 flood protection structures, issues permits to ensure new development does not cause flooding and contributes funds and offers technical expertise to local governments for flood protection programs.

Water Quality: District permits require new developments to capture and treat polluted stormwater before it is released. Other water quality activities include various stormwater improvement projects, plugging abandoned wells and restoration of springs and other habitats that naturally filter water.

Natural Systems: To protect natural systems, the District purchases lands that store floodwaters, secure future water supply or serve other water-related functions. Additional protection methods include habitat restoration and the establishment of minimum flows and levels for water bodies.

Q: How can I learn more about the District?
A: The District’s mission and responsibilities have grown tremendously since 1961. Today we have a rich 60-year history of working with the public and local governments to protect Florida’s water resources. You can learn more about the District and celebrate our 60th anniversary at WaterMatters.org.

Brian J. Armstrong, P.G.
Executive Director