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Florida Treasure - The Green Swamp

The real liquid heart of Florida is the 560,000 acre Green Swamp, which includes portions of Polk, Lake, Sumter, Pasco, and Hernando counties, which lies over and feeds the Green Swamp potentiometric high. The Green Swamp potentiometric high rises up to 132 feet above mean sea level near Polk City and, like a water tower, provides the underground pressure to a multitude of free-flowing springs, the base flow of five major rivers, and hydologic support for countless lakes, ponds, seeps, and wetlands. Its ground water pressure supplies water to the majority of Florida's population and prevents salt-water intrusion into the aquifer along the heavily populated east and west coasts.

The incredibly gradual slope of the Green Swamp plateau retains annual rains, reduces the flood peaks in the rivers, and allows the aquifer to recharge over an extended period of time. The wetlands of five river systems: the Withlacoochee, Oklawaha, Hillsborough, Peace and Kissimmee provide invaluable wildlife habitat and are Florida's foremost wildlife corridor. The five major river systems reach from the Swamp to all corners of the state from Ft. Lauderdale to Yankeetown and Jacksonville to Flamingo.

The water supply is especially vulnerable to groundwater pollution because the Floridan Aquifer is very close to the surface here and is exposed through porous sand, lime rock out croppings, and mines.


Marian Ryan

Development and the habitat fragmentation caused by transportation and utility corridors are still major threats to the Green Swamp. Agricultural practices have historically drained wetlands and over-used surface and groundwater supplies. The draining of wetlands, the destruction of upland and wetland forests, poor soil conservation practices, and over pumping reduces the quality and quantity of water available to recharge the Floridan Aquifer and to ecosystems downstream of the Swamp.

In 1974, the Florida Legislature chose to recognize only 460 square miles of the recommended 875 hydrologically significant miles of the Green Swamp as an Area of Critical State Concern. This central half of the Critical Area totals 189,000 acres in Polk County and 106,000 acres in Lake County.

Florida Statute 380.05 provides that if a resource of regional or statewide importance such as the Green Swamp is threatened by unregulated development it can be designated an Area of Critical State Concern. Neither the counties nor the three water management districts involved were willing or able to resolve the developmental and agricultural problems threatening to destroy these critical resources therefore the Critical Area was designated. The Florida Department of Community Affairs then took control of development approvals for Polk and Lake Counties. The same pressures are at work today, as in the past, making resource protection through public ownership a major defense.

To protect the land and water resources of the Green Swamp Critical Area, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has purchased approximately 110,000 acres. This is in addition to 90,000 acres of other publicly owned Green Swamp lands including the new 5000 acre Colt Creek State Park. The District has also protected 6,000 acres of privately owned lands through the purchase of conservation easements. The Green Swamp Land Authority and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have also purchased land protection agreements or conservation easements on 39,000 acres of privately owned lands. Citizen support for continued land acquisition and the enforcement of growth management laws and environmental regulations are key to the protection of this vital resource for future generations.

Visit the Green Swamp Interactive Web page: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/education/interactive/greenswamp/greenswamp.html

For more information, contact:
Marian Ryan, Conservation Chair – Ancient Islands Group 863-293-6961 ( marianryan@gmail.com )


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