Thrust Areas Ecosystem Water Institute Classification Level
Water, Land Use and Ecosystems Water and Climate Water and Society Water Resources Sustainability Springs Wetlands Watersheds Aquifers Lakes Coastal Zone  Water Institute Classification 1  Water Institute Classification 2  Water Institute Classification 3  Water Institute Classification 4
Ecosystem: Watersheds

Watersheds are hydrological basins defined by the area within which all water flows downgrade to a common waterbody such as a stream, river, lake, or bay. Watersheds are important because healthy natural ecosystems and human communities rely on clean water, and activities in a watershed can either protect or degrade the quality of water that flows downgrade through the watershed. Florida has 29 major watersheds, and jurisdictions of its Water Management Districts are based on boundaries on the five largest. The Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades watershed from central Florida to Florida Bay includes the largest freshwater subtropical peat wetland in North America. The Tampa Bay watershed on the west coast of Florida flows into Tampa Bay, the largest open-water estuary in Florida. The St. Johns River watershed on the east coast of Florida includes Florida’s only American Heritage River. The Suwannee River watershed in north Florida flows into the Suwannee estuary, one of the most extensive seagrass habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. The Apalachicola River watershed in north Florida, Georgia, and Alabama is recognized by the United Nations for its internationally valuable biological diversity. The Florida Watershed Restoration Act mandates watershed-scale management to restore degraded water quality. Florida’s watershed management planning process focuses on reducing pollutants from point sources, mainly wastewater treatment facilities, and from non-point sources such as leaching and runoff from agricultural/silvicultural land, urban and suburban stormwater, on-site septic systems, and phosphate mines. Watershed management plans also address acquisition of conservation land; regulation of water-control structures; restoration of hydrology, wetlands, and aquatic habitats; and public awareness. Researchers at University of Florida are helping address these watershed issues, providing scientific information that is informing watershed management in order to restore degraded water bodies.

Watersheds Projects