Water in Florida

From the Fountain of Youth to our dropping aquifer levels, Florida's history has been driven by what happens with its water. Follow some of the major events that have shaped the Sunshine State.

This timeline is part of State of Water, a collaborative effort of students in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida ;xNLx;;xNLx;Background photo by Hannah Winston

1513-05-01 00:06:03

Fountain of Youth

Ponce de Leon reaches Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth

1845-01-01 00:06:03

The 27th State

Florida becomes a state

1847-01-01 00:06:03

Exploring the Wetlands

St. Augustine lawyer Buckingham Smith sent by the government to investigate the marsh in Florida

1848-01-01 00:06:03

Gold in the Water

The California gold rush lowers the already low value for Florida land

1856-01-01 00:06:03

Draining the Wetlands

Swamp Overflowed Lands Act turns wetlands over to states to drain for development.

1860-01-01 00:06:03

Slow and Steady

Florida's population is 140,423

1866-12-15 21:00:01

Intracoastal Waterway

The waterway was created from Jacksonville to Miami for easier transportation and travel.

1872-01-01 00:06:03

Florida to Floridians

“From what I have observed, I should think Florida was nine-tenths water, and the other tenth swamp,” journal entry

1893-01-01 00:06:03

Drain Baby, Drain

Ditch-and-Drain Law - The first water law for Florida. It allowed counties to drain or build water courses so the land could be developed for landowners to use.

1903-01-01 00:06:03

Let the Refugees Begin

President Theodore Roosevelt establishes the first U.S. wildlife refugee in Florida, Pelican Island in Indian River Lagoon.

1925-01-01 00:06:03

Population Boom

Population grows to 2.5 million with easier access to trains and cars.

1926-01-01 00:06:03

Bursting Bubbles

Real estate collapse

1941-04-05 00:06:03

Head Above Water

Economic growth and recovery

1947-10-13 00:06:03

Florida's Mermaids

The first mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs, the only spring fed water park in Florida, takes place. The "mermaids" performed synchronized dances underwater while using custom made air hoses so they could stay under water for long periods of time.

1947-10-14 00:06:03

Florida's Mermaids

Narrated feature on the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs in 1961.

1948-04-01 00:06:03

Flocking to the Wetlands

Florida's population grows about 558 people a day during this time period.

1948-04-02 00:06:03

Come to Florida

A Chevrolet commercial promoting tourism in Florida (1950s)

1955-09-24 00:06:03

The Seven Seas to Miami

Miami Seaquarium opens as the largest marine-life attraction in the world. The 38-acre park cost $2.3 million.

1957-04-04 00:06:03

Bulkhead Act

"Local governments now had to issue dredge-and-‹ll permits and establish “bulkhead lines” to de‹ne the outer limits of waterfront development. "

1960-04-01 00:06:03

Clean Water?

By 1960, only one sewage-treatment plant had been built in the entire state of Florida.

1964-02-02 00:06:03

House of Mouse

Walt Disney buys 27,500 acres of land in central Florida for $200 an acre

1964-05-03 00:06:03


Deltona Corporation, a Florida development company, turns Marco Island, a then natural sanctuary, into 5,700 waterfront lots for potential homeowners.

1967-03-03 00:06:03

Power to the Mouse

Florida legislation gives Disney governmental power over its own land.

1967-05-05 00:06:03

Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act of 1967

It created a board and permitting process to oversee air and water pollution discharges

1970-12-02 00:06:03

Nixon Cleans Up

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is created.

1970-12-02 00:06:03

Cleaner Water

The Clean Water Act of 1972 makes it illegal to pollute water in the U.S. unless the polluter has a permit to do so by the government.

1971-10-01 00:06:03

Mouse Opens his Doors

The Magic Kingdom opens to the public with blue waters surrounding Walt Disney's dream

1972-11-11 00:06:03

Dividing Water in Florida

Florida's Water Resources Act of 1972 establishes water management districts across the state. The state was split up into five water districts: Northwest Florida, Suwannee River, St. Johns River, Southwest Florida and South Florida

1974-06-06 00:06:03

Noticing a Change

Journalist Luther J. Carter reports that more than 60,000 acres of fish and shellfish habitat had been dredged and filled.

1974-06-06 00:06:03

Preserving the Wetlands

The Everglades National Park is established. Today it is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S.

1980-11-01 00:06:03

Dropping Levels

In the Fort Walton Beach area, Floridan aquifer levels dropped to as low as 100 feet below sea level. Source

1981-04-01 19:28:15

Water Shortage Declaration

The St. Johns River Water Management District released an emergency water shortage declaration.

1987-04-01 19:28:15


Surface Water Improvement and Management Act passed.

1988-02-05 00:06:03

Polluting Mouse

Disney World gets into dumping and polluting trouble.

1991-04-28 00:00:00

Minimal Flow Levels

The St. Johns Water Management District develops a method to protect water levels.

1992-08-24 00:06:03

Rocked by a Hurricane

Category 5 Hurricane Andrew hits South Florida killing 15 people directly, 25 indirectly and causing more than $30 billion in property damage. At the time, it was the costliest disaster in the U.S. history. In comparison, Hurricane Katrina cost $81 billion in 2005.

2001-11-03 10:57:47

Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Passes

2002-01-09 10:57:47

Everglades Restoration

President George W. Bush works with brother, and Florida Governor, Jeb Bush on $7.8 billion restoration project.

2008-01-01 00:06:03

Saltwater to Drinking Water

Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant is operational after a five-year delay because of bankruptcy. When functionally fully, the plant is the largest in the United States producing 25 million gallons of drinking water per day. Though with years of problems, it hasn't been able to produce that much.

Water in Florida

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