In 1987 the Florida Legislature approved the Surface Water Management and Improvement Program (SWIM for short) to begin to address the need to begin figuring out how to reverse the decline in water quality in Florida’s water bodies.
Polk County played a role in this through the efforts of then State Rep. Rick Dantzler of Winter Haven, who was part of a team of young legislators who worked under the guidance of veteran legislator Rep. Sid Martin, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee to bring this program in for a landing.
This was a different time in Florida environmental legislation when state officials actively supported environmental cleanups and conservation land purchases under SWIM and Preservation 2000.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District recently compiled a summary of what the SWIM program accomplished in this part of Florida.
Some figures cited included:
–Water treatment for 215,000 acres of local watersheds.
–Restored 13,000 acres of natural systems.
–Recruited 11,000 volunteers to restore natural habitats with the addition of 570,000 plants.
The Winter Haven Chain of Lakes was one of areas specifically targeted under the program.
There’s still plenty to do, based on the number of impaired water bodies listed by state officials as well as efforts to try to prevent cleaner water bodies from sliding onto the impaired waters list because it is clear after all of these years that prevention is always cheaper than restoration.
However, it is fair to point that following an initial appropriation of $30 million in the years following the programs approval, state funding has slacked off and the ongoing efforts have had to rely on local and regional funding from the water management districts and from cities and counties that levy stormwater taxes or fees.
That reinforces the need to support local funding (see previous post) since the pollution was locally generated.