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Water bodies, watersheds and storm water

History of the Middle St. Johns River Basin

Urban areas and natural areas intermingle in the Middle St. Johns River Basin.

Urban areas and natural areas intermingle in the Middle St. Johns River Basin.

Life in central Florida has centered around its many waterways for hundreds of years. When Native Americans lived along the shores of the St. Johns River, it provided them with food and transportation. As European settlers moved to the wilds of Florida, the area’s waterways served as a route for commerce, with paddlewheel boats bringing tourists to the center of the state and carrying away citrus and other agricultural products grown on the river’s rich floodplain.

Even today, central Florida is known for its lakes, creeks, streams and rivers. Here, many find the natural beauty that leads them to adventure hiking in the centuries old woods, viewing the many birds and animals that live here, or paddling a canoe along a lazy waterway.

The middle basin encompasses the watersheds of the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers, Howell Creek through Lake Jesup, Deep Creek through Lake Harney and various flows of water into Lake Monroe. The basin extends from the Econlockhatchee River in Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties northward into Lake and Volusia counties.

Like other areas of Florida, waterways in central Florida have been degraded over the years by stormwater runoff, discharges from agricultural and dairy areas and by wastewater treatment plants. Excess pollutants and sediments in stormwater runoff and other discharges can fuel the growth of algae, which can cover the surface of the water to a degree that restricts the amount of sunlight reaching underwater plants. This condition can kill the plants needed by fish and other aquatic animals for food and habitat. In some basin water bodies, the natural flow of water has been altered for roads, flood control, aesthetics, erosion control and water level maintenance. These alterations limit the ability of the waterways to naturally cleanse themselves, which further aggravates the degraded water conditions. In addition, the basin is highly urbanized with limited land available for restoration projects.

In 2000, the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District proposed the middle basin as a Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program to coordinate individual project areas into a regional framework.

The district’s partners in these efforts include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Lake, Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties; the cities of Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, DeBary, Deltona, Eatonville, Edgewood, Lake Helen, Lake Mary, Longwood, Maitland, Orlando, Oviedo, Sanford, Winter Park and Winter Springs; the Florida Audubon Society; Orange Audubon; Friends of the Wekiva; Friends of Lake Jesup; and The Nature Conservancy.

While work is progressing in the basin, waterways (including Lake Jesup, the Wekiva River and a segment of the St. Johns River that also includes lakes Harney and Monroe) within the middle basin in 2009 were listed as impaired and did not meet the state of Florida water quality standards, according to DEP’s verified list of impaired water bodies.


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