Winter Haven Lakes Report

The 35 lakes in the city drain directly into creeks that feed Peace River. City and county experts are trying to harvest more of that rain water to recharge the Upper Floridan Aquifer.

WINTER HAVEN — City of Winter Haven Natural Resources Division staff and Lakes Advisory Committee volunteers published the Lakes Advisory Committee 2018 Annual Report July 9.

The 140-page report about water quality in 35 lakes around the city is available on the City of Winter Haven’s website.

In 2018, Winter Haven received three more inches of rain compared to the city average, per the National Weather Service. Accordingly, the report states that surface levels in city lakes went up in 2018.

“This likely contributed to the decisively-improved water quality conditions observed in many of the lakes during 2018,” City of Winter Haven Environmental Scientist Devon Moore said.

The report suggests that above average rainfall was not the only contributor to the city’s improved water quality, though. City leadership has been committed to water quality in the Chain of Lakes for decades. According to the latest report, two-thirds of the city lakes have demonstrated “significant recovery from 2000 to 2018.”

Last year, more than half of the city’s 35 lakes had a decrease in invasive aquatic vegetation and an increase in diverse, native aquatic vegetation.

Recently Winter Haven Public Works Director MJ Carnevale told the Sun that, unlike in other parts of the state, city staff do not rely on herbicides to control invasive aquatic vegetation. The lakes are monitored remotely using technology and are maintained with more frequency.

Actively managing stormwater is another city priority. The local engineering firm of Chastain Skillman recently helped city staff create a computer program to model what happens to rainwater when it hits the ground to better manage stormwater pollution.

City leaders have been intentional in applying for Southwest Florida Water Management District grants to fund this, and city staff say Winter Haven could one day be a model for improving water quality for other state municipalities. A map shows city staff where the problem areas of the city are located and this information has been used to build 60 rain gardens throughout the city and four nature parks — all of which filter storm water before it reaches city lakes. Experimental “floating wetlands” have been placed in one of the larger city retention ponds with measured success.

In the 2018 lakes report, each of the 35 lakes received a score of 0 to 3; with 3 being best. Some of the under-performing lakes include lakes Hamilton, Hartridge, Martha, Elbert and Mariana. None of the 35 lakes received a perfect score of three. Almost all of the highest scores came from the South Chain of Lakes.

The average score of the 35 lakes was 1.81 out of 3.

Contact Charles A. Baker III at


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