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Surface Water Improvement and Management Program (SWIM)


In the late 1980’s, it was determined that Florida had to do more to protect and restore its priceless surface waters. While "point" sources--end-of-pipe sewage and industrial wastes--were being controlled, "nonpoint" source pollutants that enter water bodies in less direct ways were still a major concern. In 1987, the Florida Legislature created the Surface Water Improvement and Management program (SWIM) as one mechanism to address these nonpoint pollution sources.

SWIM was the first major state program to address a waterbody’s needs as a system of connected resources rather than simply as isolated wetlands or water bodies. To accomplish this, SWIM cuts across governmental responsibilities, forging important partnerships in water resource management. While the state’s five water management districts are directly responsible for the SWIM program, they work in concert with DEP, federal, state, and local governments and the private sector. All the partners contribute--with funding or in-kind services. In fact, in many areas, state-appropriated money is not the biggest part of program funding.

SWIM develops carefully crafted plans for at-risk water bodies, and directs the work needed to restore damaged ecosystems, prevent pollution from stormwater runoff and other sources, and educate the public. SWIM plans are used by other state programs, like Save Our Rivers, to help make land-buying decisions, and by local governments to help make land-use management decisions.

Since its inception, SWIM has made great strides toward improving the quality of a number of troubled water bodies and increasing our understanding of healthy water bodies. The initial legislation identified specific water bodies that would fall under SWIM--Lake Apopka, Tampa Bay, the Indian River Lagoon System, Biscayne Bay, the St. Johns River, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Today, twenty-nine water bodies are now on the SWIM waterbody priority list. 

Originally, the Florida Legislature funded the SWIM program annually, matched by moneys raised by the water management districts. This original dedicated annual funding was ended after the 1997-98 fiscal year. However, many SWIM water bodies have benefited from significant individual legislative appropriations throughout the years, associated with the Community Budget Issue Request water project funding process under s. 403.885, F.S.

The Department's watershed management and TMDL programs have used elements of the SWIM program as models in their development since the late 1990s, focusing on the inter-connectedness of surface and ground water systems and on comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional approaches to solving pollution problems.

Swim Priority Waterbodies

Northwest Florida Water Management District
 (Revised January 2006)

  • Apalachicola River and Bay Watershed
  • Pensacola Bay Watershed
  • Choctawhatchee River and Bay Watershed
  • St. Andrew Bay Watershed
  • St. Marks River and Apalachee Bay Watershed
  • Ochlockonee River and Bay Watershed
  • Perdido River and Bay Watershed

St. Johns River Water Management District

  • Upper St. Johns River
  • Lower St. Johns River
  • Lake Apopka
  • Upper Ocklawaha
  • Middle St. Johns River
  • Northern Coastal Basin
  • Orange Creek

Southwest Florida Water Management District

  • Banana lake
  • Charlotte Harbor
  • Crystal River/Kings Bay
  • Lake Panasoffkee
  • Lake Tarpon
  • Lake Thonotosassa
  • Rainbow River
  • Sarasota Bay
  • Tampa Bay
  • Winter Haven Chain of Lakes

South Florida Water Management District
 (Revised January 2003)

Tier 1

  • Biscayne Bay
  • Florida Keys
  • Lake Istokpoga
  • Lake Okeechobee
  • Lake Trafford
  • Lower Charlotte Harbor (incl. Charlotte Harbor, Estero Bay,
    and Caloosahatchee River & Estuary)
  • Loxahatchee River
  • St. Lucie Estuary

Tier 2

  • Florida Bay
  • Indian River Lagoon
  • Lake Worth Lagoon
  • Naples Bay/Gordon River
  • Rookery Bay/Marco

Tier 3

  • Lake Arbuckle
  • Lake Butler
  • Lake Weohyakapka
  • Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Suwannee River Water Management District

  • Alligator Lake
  • Aucilla River
  • Coastal Rivers
  • Santa Fe River
  • Suwannee River
  • Waccasassa River

Last updated: September 19, 2017

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