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Water bodies, watersheds and storm water

The role of local governments in flooding, storms

A man-made structure sits on the edge of this stormwater pond.

A man-made structure sits on the edge of this stormwater pond.

Local governments are responsible for emergency responses during storms, land use planning, and adopting local laws that focus on floodplains and the activities allowed there. Your local government should typically be the first point of contact in flooding emergencies. Local governments are responsible for:

Emergency response

When flooding occurs, local governments play a major role in implementing state-of-emergency declarations and rescue efforts.

Land use planning

Local governments have the primary responsi­bility for determining land uses in floodplains and flood-prone areas through their comprehensive land use plans. High density or high intensity land uses should be directed away from such areas.

Local ordinances

Floodplain zoning, shoreline zoning, subdivision controls, building codes and other special local ordinances can be used for flood protection. Laws can focus, for example, on building and road elevations, setbacks from water bodies, fill limitations, sanitary codes and allowable structures in floodplains.

Stormwater drainage systems

Local governments have the primary role of maintaining stormwater drainage systems within communities, ensuring that ditches and canals are adequate, clean and functioning properly.

In Florida, the responsibility for permitting stormwater systems rests with the water management districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It may be the responsibility of a developer or homeowners association, however, to maintain these systems. Proactively maintained stormwater systems can often handle runoff from large storms.

Four men work on the installation of an inlet drain within a future stormwater pond.

Installation of an inlet drain within a future stormwater pond.

Stormwater master planning

Local governments often prepare master plans that identify flood and surface water quality prob­lem areas and potential solutions. The master plans are sometimes implemented jointly by counties and cities.

Stormwater retrofitting

Some older developments have inadequate stormwater systems that can be easily over­whelmed by heavy rainfall. These systems are being retrofitted and updated by some local governments, which is a costly process that requires projects to be prioritized and completed over many years.

For new developments, the district and DEP have stormwater permitting programs to address water quality and flooding.

Stormwater utilities

To address inadequate stormwater drainage systems, some city and county governments have stormwater utility fees and other long-term funding mechanisms to collect funds from the residents within their communities to use to improve or create stormwater systems.


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St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
(800) 725-5922