The Natural Resources Division, part of the City’s Public Works Department, is responsible for ensuring Winter Haven’s natural resources are clean and healthy. One of the primary division functions is to protect water resources, including water quality and quantity for lakes and natural systems. Staff is constantly working to balance the requirements of state and federal regulations with the needs and desires of the community. This is performed by collecting sound scientific data and using it to drive the decision making process for projects that will provide the most impact.
Winter Haven is at the headwaters of both the Peace River watershed and the Floridan Aquifer. This means that the only water available for both public water supply and lakes comes from rainfall. Because the lakes are interconnected with the aquifer, the health of groundwater resources and lakes is of paramount concern. The past 100 years has focused on water as a waste product, but now we realize that water resources are interconnected and all aspects of water have to be managed as one system.
There are 50 lakes that either touch or located within the City of Winter Haven that cover an estimated 5,200 acres. There are two chains of lakes…the Northern Chain has 8 interconnected lakes and the Southern Chain has 16 lakes all connected at the same elevation. Most of the lakes in Winter Haven are called ‘solution lakes’, which means that they formed in the same manner as sinkholes form – through the dissolution of limestone and the eventual collapse of the overlying land surface.
The Vision by Design process initiated in the year 2000 by the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce stated that “Water Benefits All Aspects of our Economy, Culture and Environment”. Shortly thereafter, the City’s slogan changed to ‘The Chain of Lakes City’. Ensuring healthy lakes in Winter Haven protects our quality of life and requires the full support of the community. The Natural Resources Division is committed to work with the community to ensure that the lakes and water resources are properly managed for years to come. Together, we will make a difference.
A major outcome of this effort was the Sustainable Water Resource Management Plan:
The plan takes a long-term approach to planning for water resource management, including water supply, water quality, flooding and natural systems, including lakes. The plan was developed with significant input from the public. One of the primary considerations of the Water Resource Sustainability Plan is that the area has been subject to nearly a century of drainage practices which have allowed water resources to be discharged during times of need. Many of the lakes within the watershed have been below normal levels for a number of years. Because of changes in how water moves to the lakes, water quality has suffered. Recharge to the Floridan aquifer has declined. One of the founding principles behind the plan is that with proper planning, enough water is available for all uses, including people, industry, agriculture and the environment.
The plan is primarily focused on Winter Haven, but incorporates all of the Peace Creek Watershed, which also includes all or parts of Auburndale, Lake Alfred, Haines City, Lake Hamilton, Dundee, Lake Wales, Alturas, Wahneta, Bartow, Eagle Lake and unincorporated Polk County. The Peace Creek Watershed is approximately 150,000 acres and is at the headwaters of the Peace River which begins at the outflow of the Peace Creek near Bartow and travels to Charlotte Harbor before entering the Gulf of Mexico.
Click the links below to review the plan.
- Water Resource Sustainability Summary 2010 (PDF:249KB)
- Sustainable Water Resource Management Plan (Final) Nov. 2010 (low resolution) (PDF:10.8MB)
- Appendices A – E
- Public Workshop Presentation
If an illicit discharge to our waterways is observed please contact the division office.
Partners and Collaborators
- Polk County Lakes Atlas (Lake Information)
- Lakes Education / Action Drive (LE/AD)
- Lake Region Lakes Management District (Canal Commission)
- Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP – Home)
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection (NPDES Stormwater Program for Construction Activity)
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – Lakefront Permits (Aquatic Plant Control Permit and Field Office Information)
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC – Home)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA – Home)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Office of Water)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Clean Lake Homepage)
- Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce (Chain of Lakes)
- Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC)
- Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI)
- University of Florida – Extension (IFAS)
- Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP)
- Polk County Environmental Lands