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Treatment, Best Practices and Increased Water Storage

From the sawgrass marshes and tree islands of the Everglades to the mangrove stands along our coastlines and the wetlands, uplands, lakes and river floodplains of the interior, nutrients like phosphorus were once found at very low levels. With decades of residential and agricultural growth, the levels of nutrients and other trace pollutants making their way into these natural areas began to rise. As a result, native ecosystems as well as the plants and animals that are part of those systems began to change. To protect and restore these ecosystems, the South Florida Water Management District is working to remove excess nutrients and other pollutants, or prevent them from entering natural systems.

At the top of this page, take an interactive visual tour of the stormwater treatment areas that are helping to improve water quality throughout the region. Be sure to select the View Panoramic option, then click on the five icons that appear, and review each one to learn more about how stormwater treatment areas work.

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A number of efforts can effectively achieve this: building Stormwater Treatment Areas (constructed wetlands); requiring best management practices for agricultural and urban stormwater runoff; and creating surface or groundwater storage for seasonal water surpluses. All of these solutions for improving water quality are required elements of federal/state legislation for restoring the Greater Everglades (which includes the Kissimmee, Okeechobee and Everglades watersheds). They are also mandated by separate state legislation for water quality improvements in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, as well as in the Everglades systems south of Okeechobee. Read more about these strategies to improve water quality in the sections below.

  • Everglades Forever Act & Settlement Agreement (F.S. 373.4592)
  • Long-Term Plan for Achieving Water Quality Goals
  • Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
  • Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Act (F.S. 373.4595)
  • Lake Okeechobee Protection Act

Long-Term Plan for Achieving Water Quality Goals
The Long-Term Plan is a comprehensive set of water quality improvement measures designed to ensure that all waters entering the Everglades Protection Area (EPA) achieve compliance with water quality standards. These measures include enhancements to the existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs), expanded best management practices, and integration with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects. In addition the Plan continues the strong science-based and adaptive implementation philosophy to allow continuous improvement until the long term water quality goal is achieved. more »

Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs)
Every plant needs nutrients to survive and thrive, but South Florida's native plants often are out-competed by other plants better able to use heavier nutrient loads. In constructed wetlands known as Stormwater Treatment Areas, some of these non-native plants with an appetite for high levels of nutrients are being used selectively to help remove excess nutrients, so that native plants can once again thrive. more »

STAs – By the Numbers
Map of STAs
  • STA-1 East, 5,132 acres, northeast of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

  • STA-1 West, 6,670 acres, northwest of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

  • STA-2, 8,240 acres, west of Water Conservation Area 2

  • STA-3/4, 16,534 acres in western Palm Beach County, the largest constructed wetland in the world

  • STA-5, 6,095 acres in Hendry County, west of the northern edge of Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area

  • STA-6, 2,257 acres, in Hendry County, west of the southern edge of Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area

STA Operations
  • Affected by weather (rainfall, drought, hurricanes), plant growth rates and invasion of undesirable plant species

  • Water quality is continually monitored by scientists at District laboratories

  • Operational decisions are made based on real-time data

  • Scientists and technicians make approximately 27,000 visits per year to water quality monitoring stations

Agricultural Best Management Practices
Farming for winter vegetables, sugarcane, citrus, nursery plants or other crops is one of our region's largest industries. Agricultural practices can contribute excess nutrients or other pollutants to the rivers, lakes and wetlands of south and central Florida. more »

Urban Best Management Practices
Cities and communities also contribute nutrients and other pollutants to our region's rivers, lakes and wetlands. Storm water flowing over city streets or the rich green lawns and gardens that fill our urban and suburban landscapes can carry excess nutrients from the fertilizers and herbicides we use, as well as all the other contaminants that are a by-product of modern life. more »

Increased Water Storage
Before today's development, much of south and central Florida was land which stored water at least part of the year. Even while that storage has been reduced as the land has been converted for cities and farms, this development also makes it critical at times to quickly remove water from heavy storms or hurricanes to prevent catastrophic flooding. more »

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SFWMD Headquarters: 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, Florida 33406
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