map of the Coastal watersheds

In coastal areas, waters from rivers flow into bays, lagoons and estuaries brimming with biological diversity. Maintaining this diversity is a key part of maintaining the health of Florida's ecological systems and future resources.

South Florida's coastal systems support spiny lobster, shrimp, blue crab, oyster, spotted sea trout, stone crab and many other marine and freshwater species of commercial and recreational interest. Coastal ecosystems are especially vulnerable to harmful impacts because they attract intense human development, making these areas prone to habitat loss and changes that can alter the very nature of natural systems.

The South Florida Water Management District's goal is to manage stormwater flows to rivers and freshwater discharge to South Florida's estuaries in a way that preserves, protects and, where possible, restores these essential resources. We work in partnership with federal, local and other state governments to, within the system's limitations, ensure that rivers and estuaries receive not only the right amount of water at the right time but also clean, high-quality water.

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Coastal Watersheds Projects

Coastal ecosystems associated with South Florida watersheds include the southern reaches of the Indian River Lagoon, the Savannas, the Atlantic Ridge, the St. Lucie River and estuary, the Loxahatchee River and estuary, the West Jupiter Wetlands, the Lake Worth Lagoon, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, the Caloosahatchee River and estuary, Estero Bay and Charlotte Harbor.

Many of these coastal ecosystems are interconnected. Projects to restore or protect one part of the system will have benefits for those areas connected to it, whether upstream or downstream. For example, on Florida's west coast, the Caloosahatchee River and estuary and Estero Bay, Charlotte Harbor and San Carlos Bay are interdependent systems. The Caloosahatchee also receives flows from Lake Okeechobee, so projects targeting the lake have impacts on its tributaries. On the east coast, the St. Lucie River and estuary and the Indian River Lagoon as well as Lake Okeechobee are closely tied ecosystems.

In addition, the state-federal partnership to restore the Greater Everglades includes projects and initiatives that will benefit most coastal resources. Other projects to acquire lands, to reserve water supplies for natural systems or to plan for current and future water supply also have impacts on Florida's coastal watersheds.

Related Projects and Programs

photo of a coastal watershed - people boating

Atlantic Coastal Ridge Ecosystem
The Atlantic Ridge Coastal Ecosystem covers 12,300 acres across extensive upland and wetland systems in Martin County, between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. Habitats include pine flatwoods, forested sloughs and coastal scrub, a rare biological community. Wetland systems here provide a source of groundwater base flow for the North Fork of the St. Lucie River and South Fork of the St. Lucie River plus aquifer recharge to coastal Martin County. more »


Biscayne Bay and Estuary
Biscayne Bay is a subtropical estuary that includes 428 square miles of marine ecosystem and 938 square miles of watershed along the coast of Miami-Dade and northeastern Monroe counties. Many rare, threatened and endangered species live in this ecosystem, including manatees and American Crocodiles. more »


Caloosahatchee River and Estuary and San Carlos Bay

The Caloosahatchee River and Estuary extend about 70 miles west from Lake Okeechobee into San Carlos Bay on Florida's southwest coast. Significant natural system resources within the Caloosahatchee River watershed include Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass, Charlotte Harbor aquatic preserves and Telegraph Swamp. more


Charlotte Harbor
The Lower Charlotte Harbor covers more than 2,230 square miles in the lower west coast region of Florida, including the Cape Coral and Fort Myers metropolitan areas. Many creeks and rivers contribute flows to form a series of bays, sounds, passes and a natural harbor along the Gulf of Mexico. Major passes from Gasparilla Sound to San Carlos Bay are Little Gasparilla Pass, Boca Grande Pass, Captiva Pass and Blind Pass. Major passes on Estero Bay are Matanzas Pass, Big Carlos Pass, Big Hickory Pass, Little Hickory Pass and Wiggins Pass. more »


Estero Bay
The Estero Bay Watershed includes central and southern Lee County and parts of northern Collier and western Hendry counties. The principal freshwater inflows come from Hendry Creek, Mullock Creek, Estero River, Spring Creek and the Imperial River. The area is home to a variety of endangered or threatened species including the Florida panther, red-cockaded woodpecker and manatee. The bay includes five rookery islands used by thousands of birds such as brown pelicans, frigate birds, egrets and white herons. more »


Florida Bay and Estuary

Florida Bay is a shallow inner-shelf lagoon between the southern tip of the Florida mainland and the Florida Keys. It is an area where fresh water from the Everglades mixes with the salty waters from the Gulf of Mexico to form an estuary. There are nearly 1,000 square miles of interconnected basins and 200 mangrove islands in the bay and estuary providing habitat for the bottle-nosed dolphin, manatee, American crocodile and many birds. The bay also provides significant ecological, flood control and recreational benefits to the region. more


Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a chain of islands within Miami-Dade and Monroe counties that extend from the southern tip of the Florida mainland southwest to the Dry Tortugas. Many conservation areas are located within the Keys including Biscayne National Park, several National Wildlife Refuges and the Dry Tortugas National Park. These are all within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. more »


Indian River Lagoon

The Indian River Lagoon is a series of three distinct, but interconnected, estuarine systems, which extend 156 miles from Ponce Inlet to Jupiter Inlet on Florida's east coast. Approximately 2,200 species have been identified in the lagoon system, with 35 of these species listed as threatened or endangered. The lagoon supports multimillion dollar fishing, clamming, tourism, agricultural and recreational industries. more


Lake Worth Lagoon
The Lake Worth Lagoon watershed covers more than 450 square miles that contribute flows to Lake Worth and South Lake Worth in Palm Beach County. Although the region is urbanized, significant regionally important natural resources remain within the lagoon. more »


Loxahatchee River and Estuary

The Loxahatchee River watershed includes the communities of Hobe Sound, Tequesta, Jupiter, Jupiter Island, Jupiter Inlet Colony, Jupiter Farms, Juno Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. This watershed contains large tracts of undisturbed land such as the Atlantic Coastal Ridge and West Jupiter Wetlands (formerly Pal-Mar), plus protected parcels including the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Loxahatchee Slough Preserve and the Jupiter Ridge Natural Area. It also contains managed agricultural lands and areas impacted by urban and suburban development, including industrial sites. more



The Savannas State Preserve is a 4,600-acre managed environmental area extending from Fort Pierce to Jensen Beach in St. Lucie and Martin counties. It forms a chain of marshes and lakes that separate the inland pine flatwoods from the coastal scrub on the Atlantic Ridge. The Savannas is also a Florida Forever Program project. more


St. Lucie River and Estuary

The St. Lucie River and Estuary Ecosystem is an essential component of the environmental and economic well-being of Martin and St. Lucie counties. The St. Lucie River, part of the Indian River Lagoon estuary system, is home to thousands of plant and animal species, including manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and seahorses. more 


West Jupiter Wetlands
West Jupiter Wetlands (formerly known as Pal-Mar) is in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin counties, east of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area. West Jupiter Wetlands contains the largest contiguous complex of depression marsh, wet flatwoods and natural communities in the two counties. West Jupiter Wetlands is a vast complex of pine flatwoods, wet prairie and depression marsh, and contains the highest quality pine flatwoods in South Florida. more »



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