Watershed Protection Program
The City of Stuart has one of the most comprehensive watershed improvement programs in Florida, if not the nation. Among its many benefits are:
- Groundwater Recharge
- Passive Recreation
- Upland and Wetland Preserve Areas
- Urban Open Space
- Water Quality Improvements
- Wildlife Habitat
The City receives an average of 60 inches of rain each year. Rain can percolate into the ground, evaporate back into the atmosphere, or become stormwater runoff. Historically in Stuart, stormwater runoff was directed to the St. Lucie River as fast as possible via ditches and underground pipes, to obtain good drainage at the least cost.
By the 1970's, scientists began to recognize stormwater runoff was a significant source of pollution to lakes and streams. Stormwater accumulates nutrients, sediments, oil, grease, trash, etc. as it runs over the land, all of which is flushed into the St. Lucie River that surrounds Stuart on all sides. Polluted stormwater runoff is called "non-point source" pollution to distinguish it from "point sources" of pollution such as sewage treatment plants and factories.
By the 1990's, the St. Lucie River was in serious decline due to non-point source pollution from its entire watershed, which is much larger than the City of Stuart, and includes a canal (C-44) that connects the South Fork of the St. Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee, enabling Lake O to be a dangerous source of pollution to the St. Lucie River when it discharges via C-44.
The City has long supported efforts to clean up non-point source pollution of the St. Lucie River, and committed to doing what it could to improve the quality of stormwater runoff within its jurisdiction. Stuart adopted a Stormwater Utility in 1994 to fund these efforts locally, one of the first such programs in Florida.
In 2000, the City adopted a Watershed Map. Each watershed comprises a unique area that drains stormwater within its boundaries to one or more points of discharge to tide (either via local creeks to the River, or via pipes directly to the River itself). Each watershed was studied for opportunities to improve stormwater management within its boundaries. This program became the City Watersheds Project.