Water Resources in Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County's water resources play a vital role in our daily lives. From fishing in one of the freshwater lakes, to boating in the Lake Worth Lagoon, to scuba diving an artificial reef off the coast, the health of our surface water is critical to our fragile ecosystems.
A major contributing factor in the health of all our water bodies comes from pollutants that are carried in stormwater runoff. Interconnecting drainage canals that were built to drain overflowed lands west of the coastal ridge store and move surface water through lakes, estuaries and ultimately out to tide. Untreated or poorly treated stormwater runoff that is discharged from these drainage systems diminishes surface water quality, wildlife health and habitats, and native plant communities. Poor water quality can even lead to fish kills.
Various government and non-government programs have been developed to permit stormwater runoff, reduce pollutant runoff, and monitor water quality in an effort to protect our surface water from degradation.
ERM's Role in Surface Water Protection
ERM strives to protect the quality of surface water through the following areas:
Water Quality Monitoring
In an effort to protect surface water, ERM monitors the water quality within estuaries, lakes, and canals containing both fresh and salt water. Presently there is over 20 years of data that ERM has collected on the water quality in Palm Beach County. All of the water quality data that is generated is provided to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (FDEP) statewide water quality database, FL STORET. This data is used in the biannual assessment of water quality conditions throughout Florida and the determination of impaired water bodies.
- For the location of monitoring sites in our county, click here.
- To view data entered in FDEP's STORET web site, click here. [External Link]
- For information on the Chain of Lakes Water Quality, click here.
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit
On February 1, 1997, Palm Beach County was issued a NPDES permit from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for the storm sewers owned and operated by the County. The NPDES stormwater regulations require that the local governments that are issued NPDES stormwater permits reduce to the maximum extent possible the discharge of pollutants both into and from municipal separate storm sewers to "waters of the U.S."
ERM's role in maintaining the County's NPDES permit is to perform water quality monitoring, illicit discharge inspections, construction site erosion and sedimentation inspections, and coordinate annual report preparation.
- For more information on NPDES, click here. [External Link]
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Ordinance
An important aspect of reducing the discharge of pollutants into storm sewers is through the Palm Beach County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Ordinance. The ordinance was adopted in response to a requirement by the US EPA that local governments have legal authority to prohibit non-stormwater or illicit discharges into their drainage systems.
Impaired water bodies/Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)
TMDL is the maximum amount of a given pollutant that water bodies, such as canals, rivers or estuaries, can assimilate and still maintain designated uses such as drinking, fishing, recreation, and shellfish harvesting. The purpose of the TMDL is to limit pollutants from entering the water bodies that are not meeting their intended uses based on violations of water quality standards. Water bodies that fail to meet water quality standards are determined by the FDEP to be impaired. The TMDLs are scheduled for implementation over the next several years.
ERM provides support to this program by providing water quality data, encouraging the listing of water bodies that are believed to be impaired, discouraging the listing of water bodies that are not believed to be impaired, assisting County government to be in compliance with the TMDL, and participating in subsequent TMDL Basin Action Management Plans.
- For more information on which water bodies within Palm Beach County are impaired for a particular pollutant, click here.
For more information on surface water quality in Palm Beach County, contact the Surface Water Protection program at (561) 233-2400.