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Florida water management history

Water management in the 1900s: 1950 through 1969


Florida’s population reached 2.77 million.


The Artesian Water Control Act was passed to control flowing artesian wells.

Aug. 4, 1954

Congress passed the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, providing for water management by the Soil Conservation Service of watersheds smaller than 250,000 acres.


The Florida Legislature established the seven-member Water Resources Study Commission. Byron E. Herlong was appointed by Gov. Leroy Collins and designated chairman. The study committee report to the governor resulted in the passage of the Water Resources Act of 1957 (State Bill 377). The act declared, for the first time, a water policy for the state. It recognized the need for an overall evaluation of the state’s water resources. The Water Survey and Research Division agency was also dissolved, and its files were turned over to the Florida Geological Survey.


The Legislature created the Department of Water Resources under the State Board of Conservation.


Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam on the Apalachicola River became fully operational.


Congress authorized a United States study commission for the Southeast River Basin to study the water resources of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.


As a result of floods in mid-central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, emergency water resource and flood control studies were undertaken in the Green Swamp, Tampa Bay area and Ocklawaha River Basin.


The Legislature created the Southwest Florida Water Management District to initiate management programs in the area. The district replaced seven smaller districts. It had nine board members, each serving three-year staggered terms.

A map of Florida subdivided into its five water management districts


The Four River Basin Study was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a federal project was authorized.


The Orange Lake Dam was built.


Construction resumed on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal.


Congress enacted the Federal Water Quality Act.


Fifteen new sinkholes appeared in central Florida, indicating a serious drop in the water table.

A large sinkhole in Orlando swallowing nearby trees

As they did in the past, sinkholes indicate a drop in the water table below the earth’s surface. This sinkhole in the late 1990s threatened an apartment complex when it opened near Orlando.


Florida’s new constitution made the protection of natural resources a state priority.


The Florida Legislature passed the Governmental Reorganization Act, creating the Department of Natural Resources. The department combined the tasks of the former Outdoor and Recreational Development Council, the Board of Drainage Commissioners, the Florida Board of Conservation, the Canal Authority, the Suwannee River Development Authority and the State Park Service and part of the functions of the old Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.


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St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
(800) 725-5922