Drainage and Flooding

A community can lose a portion of its drainage system conveyance or stormwater storage capacity due to illegal dumping, debris accumulation, soil erosion, and sedimentation as well as overgrowth of vegetation. When this happens, flooding occurs more frequently and reaches higher elevations, subjecting properties otherwise protected to an unnecessary risk of damage. Extensive maintenance is necessary to ensure flood preparedness. 

You can practice good drainage maintenance by keeping grass clippings and other debris out of stormwater drainage systems and drainage canals to prevent clogging and loss of stormwater storage and conveyance capacity.  

Maintenance activities include:

  • Ongoing monitoring
  • Debris and sediment removal
  • Correction of problem sites and damaged systems by field crews.

The Village of Wellington has ongoing programs for structural and permanent changes to channels or basins (e.g. enlargement of openings, installation of grates to catch debris, installation of hard bank protection, construction of new retention basins, etc.) to reduce flooding and maintenance problems.

Palm Beach County's drainage systems consist of a combination of natural drainage ways and channels, engineered channels, storm sewers and ditches, and detention/retention basins contiguous to drainage systems. 

Responsibility for inspection and maintenance of drainage systems falls to a variety of organizations depending on the type of system involved:

  • South Florida Management District and the various water control districts provide oversight for the routine inspection of the drainage systems under the purview and for debris clearance and other maintenance activities.
  • Storm drain maintenance falls within the purview of the County's Road & Bridge Division, municipal public works departments, and the State Department of Transportation.
  • Inspection, clearance, and maintenance of privately owned systems are the responsibilities of property owners and associations.

In rare instances, environmental regulations may prohibit removing natural debris and new growth from some drainage-ways.

Quite often, maintenance actions are prompted by citizen complaints and reports. The vigilance of citizens is a critical element in identifying potential drainage problems. If you would like advice and recommendations to alleviate drainage problems on your property, you can call 561-791-4000.

The Water Management Challenge

Rainfall has been critical to South Florida’s history, feeding its natural wetlands and refreshing surface-water and groundwater reservoirs. Its water management issues differ from those of most other areas in the country. Where most areas are concerned with protecting “scarce” water resources, South Florida’s challenge is managing an overabundance of surface water. 

In order to drain and manage the excess water, hundreds of miles of canals, dikes, and levees have been built. Water management policies have created agricultural, tourism, and real estate industries whose success has fueled the state's population growth and taxed the seemingly abundant water supply. Choices must be made between further population growth, environmental protection, and adequate, safe water supply.

The area’s high hydrologic variation, low physical relief, and limited storage and conveyance capacities, make water management challenges. A delicate balance must be struck, dealing with extremes: flooding versus drought and open land versus crowded urban areas. Actions range from enforcing water restrictions during dry periods to precautionary or emergency flood management during wet periods and storm events.

Water management is a complex challenge due to:

  • Annual rainfall averaging over 60 inches (but varying widely), and more than 50 percent occurring in 4 months (June to September).
  • The rainy season necessitating the movement of water away from populated areas for flood control.
  • The storage of excess water that is necessary to meet population needs and demands during dry periods.

Flood Control

Flood control in Palm Beach County is dependent on a complex, integrated system of canals, waterways and flood control devices operated by the South Florida Water Management District, 20 drainage districts, and thousands of privately owned canals, retention/detention lakes and ponds.

The county's drainage system is designed to handle excess surface water in three stages, which ultimately reach the Atlantic Ocean:

  1. Neighborhood or tertiary drainage systems are made up of community lakes, ponds, street and yard drainage grates or culverts, ditches and canals.
  2. Local or secondary drainage systems are made up of canals, structures, pumping stations and storage areas.
  3. Primary flood control system consists of South Florida Water Management District canals, natural waterways, and rivers.