The Trouble with Tropics
Florida, like many tropical areas, has two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. During the
wet season (June through October), water is plentiful, lawns grow green, farmers grow their crops and kids
wakeboard in the park. But, of course, flooding is a problem. In the dry season (seven months: November
through May), grass turns as brown as a desert bush.
The source of Florida’s water is the Lake Toho/Kissimmee River/Lake Okeechobee system, and
the level of the lake system rises and falls between the seasons. At low levels during the dry season,
Florida residents must be mindful to conserve water and animals are left to fend for themselves. Water
resources have the potential to be unsustainable without management.
Florida water resources fluctuate, so life can be difficult. The South Florida Water Management
District was created to maintain sustainability of Florida water resources.
Today, tourists come to visit the beautiful tropical climate of Florida’s beaches, wildlife, and palm
trees. South Florida wasn’t always so pristine. Florida used to be a much soggier swampland. Mosquitoes
were so plentiful, that some early pioneers of the area joked that they must be the state bird. Because of
Florida’s flat geography, rainfall was the determinant factor in every facet of South Florida’s environment.1
After a large rain, water would stand in floodplains and flow from river to river like water in an ice
tray without canals or dams to control the flow of storm waters. Standing water would remain for weeks or
months leaving disease and water damage behind.1
During the dry season, farming became difficult. Droughts were common and crops and cattle
would thirst without a reliable source of water.1
As people began to expand farther into the Everglades and swampy regions, the trend was to drain
and dredge the swamps. For almost a century, from 1850 to 1950, Florida wetlands lost 9.3 million
After a series of the worst hurricanes in United States history, including one which sunk five
United States warships in 1944, the State of Florida asked for Federal help to deal with its weather.
Congress authorized the country’s largest public works project in 1948: The US Army Corps of Engineers,
over the next twenty years, constructed a massive plumbing system known as the Central and Southern
Florida Flood Control Project, which consists of 1,800 miles of canals, 16 major pump stations, and 200
water control structures, which, according to Lead Communications Specialist, Charles C. Scott II,
stretches from just south of the Orlando airport in Shingle Creek all the way South to the Dry Tortugas,
which are the west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico.1,3,4,5
If one were to drive near one of South Florida’s many canal crossings, one would see an SFWMD
sign with a little alligator on it indicating the South Florida Water Management District, created in 1949 by
the State of Florida to...