Ranch Water Services

Ranch Water Services

Archbold monitors and reports on water management alternatives on 16 ranches and 3 protected public land projects.

Archbold monitors and reports on water management alternatives, including water retention and nutrient removal projects, on 16 ranches and 3 protected public land projects as part of the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) Dispersed Water Program (DWM). Ranchlands make up 1 million acres of the 2.6 million-acre headwaters of the Everglades, the lands and waters that drain south into Lake Okeechobee. Even though nutrient loads from cattle pastures are low relative to other land uses (on a per acre basis) the large acreage of ranches in the watershed make them a significant part to the overall nutrient loads at the landscape scale. Therefore, ranches have been a focus for improved P control strategies. The SFWMD launched the DWM in 2011. The DWM houses subprograms like the Northern Everglades Payment for Environmental Services Program (NE-PES). Ranchers that participate in NE-PES provide water services above and beyond normal levels and receive a payment for these environmental services. The public benefits from additional water related services provided at a lower cost than can be secured from public investment in regional water storage and water treatment facilities. Ranchers, who face low profit margins and fluctuations in the price of beef, have a guaranteed source of income, creating a financial incentive for land to remain in ranching rather than be converted to more intensive agriculture and urban development—land uses that will further exacerbate water flow, pollution, and habitat problems.

Major Findings & Impact

Dr. Betsey Boughton, director of research at Buck Island Ranch says “The NE-PES program aims to pay ranchers to hold and slow water as it moves across ranches toward Lake Okeechobee. This helps because ranchland makes up over one-third of the large Florida watershed called the headwaters of the Everglades, the lands and waters that flow south to Lake Okeechobee, and from there to the coasts and the Everglades.” She added, “It is easier to implement because ranches already have ditches, and these can be converted at lower costs into water management sites with simple structures and automated electronic monitoring equipment.”

Project Details

More about this project


Ms. Benita Whalen, PE

Data and Analysis Types

Surface water stage (level) ,Surface water flow, Surface water nutrients, Rainfall

Primary Location(s)

Buck Island Ranch, Headwaters of the Everglades Watershed

Years Active

2011 - Present

UFWI Water Report
Water quality monitoring

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