OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

Department of Environmental Protection

Water Policy and Ecosystems Restoration

What is the purpose of the program?

The program is responsible for developing water quality standards, evaluating water quality in accordance with those standards, and executing programs necessary to restore the quality of waters that do not meet the standards; supporting local governments and other entities financially to protect and restore water resources; restoring Florida's Everglades and other related South Florida ecosystems; and supervising Florida's aquatic preserves. The program also has oversight of the state's five water management districts.

How is the program organized?

The program consists of five program areas.

What is the relationship between the department and the water management districts?

It is a policy of the Florida Legislature that the state's water resources be managed at a state and regional level. The department is responsible for the administration of water resources at the state level and exercises general supervisory authority over the five water management districts, which administer water resources at the regional level.   
The Office of Water Policy leads in developing appropriate water policies based on statutory direction, overseeing the water management districts and coordinating department and district water programs. The department and the water management districts are responsible for water management in four key areas.
  • Water Supply
  • Water Quality
  • Flood Protection and Floodplain Management
  • Natural Systems
In addition, regulatory programs delegated to the water management districts include programs to manage the consumptive use of water, well construction, and environmental resource permitting.

How are the water management districts organized?

The state's five water management districts are organized along natural hydrological boundaries: Northwest Florida, Suwanee River, St. Johns River, Southwest Florida, and South Florida. The Governor appoints members to boards that govern each district. The appointees are subject to Senate confirmation.

How are these activities funded?

Article VII, Section 9, Constitution of the State of Florida, authorizes the state's five water management districts to levy ad valorem taxes upon the assessed value of real property within each district's boundaries. The Northwest Florida Water Management District is limited to a constitutional millage cap of 0.05 mill, while the remaining four districts are limited to a maximum of 1.0 mill.
Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Dollars Positions


Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve. During the 2020 Legislative session, the Legislature enacted Ch. 2020-136, Laws of Florida. This legislation names the coastal region of Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties the "Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve" and establishes this area as an aquatic preserve system under the Florida Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975.

South Florida Water Management District Wetland Acquisition. In May 2020, the South Florida Water Management District acquired 20,000 acres of wetlands in Water Conservation Area 3.  This is the largest wetland acquisition in a decade.

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

A complete list of related OPPAGA reports is available on our website.

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
The Auditor General reports on special district operations are available on its website
Websites of Interest
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Performance Information
Performance measures for the water management districts may be found in each district's annual tentative budget submission.
Northwest Florida Water Management District
Suwannee River Water Management District
St. Johns River Water Management District
Southwest Florida Water Management District
South Florida Water Management District
Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Chapters 187, 259, 253, 373, 380 Part II, 403 Part I, and 403 Part IV, Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?