Trying to Understand “Water Classifications of the State,” SLR/IRL


Sunrise over Florida's "Waters of the State," SLR/IRL region.
Sunrise over Florida’s “Waters of the State,” SLR/IRL region.

The more I learn about water, “the more I learn what I don’t know”…Federal laws….state laws…and local governments living with the “sins of the fathers,” —just trying to keep up…

Because I taught eighth and ninth grade for so many years, it is my training to try to break down complicated information, so that it can be understood on a basic level and shared. Obviously, I am no expert on water law so please chime in!


Classifications and designated uses of water by the state of Florida are required by the Clean Water Act of the United States. “The act requires that the surface waters of each state be classified according to “designated uses.” Florida has six classes with associated designated uses, which are arranged in order of degree of protection required.” DEP

From FAQ DEP 2012.
Classification, Waters of the State, FAQ Fl. Dept. of Environmental Protection, 2012.


The classes are:

Class I: Potable Water

Class II Shellfish Propagation or Harvesting

Class III Fish Consumption, Recreation, Propagation and Maintenance of a Health, Well-Balanced, Population of Fish and Wildlife

Class III-Limited the same Class III but “with limited physical/habitat conditions…

Class IV Agriculture Water Supplies

Class V Navigation, Utility and Industrial Use.

I wonder what category the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon falls under? This is not easy to find on-line. Let’s guess….Look at the chart above closely….

What do you think?

My guess would be Class III-Limited, but I don’t know. I could not find it “for sure” on-line.

Looking at the chart and reading the DEP website, it sounds like all waters of the state of Florida are “Class III” regular “unless otherwise specified….”

—–Finding a simple list of class designations for waters of the state is not easy. This download is what I found and it does not make sense.


Now to complicate the issue, certain classes of water that are listed as Class III or otherwise can also be listed separately as “Outstanding Waters of the State,” or as “Aquatic Preserves.” How can this be?

—–For instance, the North Fork of the St Lucie River is listed as an “Aquatic Preserve” and “Outstanding Water” of the State. Also the Indian River Lagoon has parts, including parts in St Lucie and Martin Counties, that are also Aquatic Preserves. This doesn’t make sense to me. These bodies of water have been designated as “protected” since the 70s but they are not protected with canals dumping pollution into them. We all see that! 

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map.C-24 dumps pollution into North Fork of SLR, C-23 dumps into main area of SLR, C-44 dumps into South Fork, and C-25 into IRL near Ft Pierce. The North Fork of the SLR and parts of the IRL are Aquatic Preserves/and or Outstanding Florida Waters…..this makes no sense.
Aquatic Preserves of the IRL as shown in DEP's IRL Management Plan draft June 2014.
Aquatic Preserves of the IRL as shown in DEP’s IRL Management Plan draft June 2014.

Now I am going to share some photos of the Southern Indian River Lagoon, (an Aquatic Preserve), that my husband, Ed, took last Sunday, September 13th. The photos are of the C-25 canal which is dumping into the Indian River Lagoon in Ft Pierce. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it makes sense to dump pollution into an aquatic preserve, no matter what class the waters are.

To be fair, I must mention that I recently received an email from Mr Glenn Henderson, the senior grants writer for St Lucie County. He noted that a blog reader sent him the shocking photographs of C-25 recently published.  Mr Henderson noted that he and others are working together with the St Lucie Issues Team to get a grant from the state for the San Lucie storm water detention project. The San Lucie is  an old subdivision that has dirt roads, few swales and no structures to hold stormwater — and it’s less than a mile from the IRL. This is one of the many things running into the lagoon.

Thank you Glenn and everyone!  And the state? “Let’s get back to class!”

Algae fills C-25 as this water is dumped into the IRL in Ft Pierce, an aquatic preserve. (Photo Ed Lippisch 9-13-15)
Algae fills C-25 as this water is dumped into the IRL in Ft Pierce, an aquatic preserve. (Photo Ed Lippisch 9-13-15)
C-25 9-13-15 (EL)
C-25 9-13-15 (EL)
C-25 9-13-15 (EL)
C-25 9-13-15 (EL)
C-25 9-13-15 (EL)
C-25 9-13-15 (EL)


US Clean Water Act:(
Classification of Waters, DEP (

Aquatic Preserves: (

North Fork of the St Lucie River Aquatic Preserve Management Plan ( (

Outstanding Florida Waters: (

JTL blog “Our Deadly Canals” photos 9/2/15:(

7 thoughts on “Trying to Understand “Water Classifications of the State,” SLR/IRL

  1. Hi Jacqui ….I still read your blog often. The detail and explanations you provide make it much easier to understand the issues affecting our waterways and ultimately us. Thanks you so much.

  2. Getting ready for the violent north easters—- Nothing cleans water like oxygen. Hydrogen Peroxide and calcium peroxide are some of the most powerfull oxidizers known. Now is the time to start putting calcium shells and sand on all your north faceing sea walls. Water is high and barnicals and oysters will grow high up. Places where muck will accumulate from violent north winds is good too.As dry season kicks in water will drop and high up barnicals will die sacrificeing their shells to continue to clean. Kudos to whoever put sand in the c-24

  3. I did not know there was a law that said that a wellbalanced population was to be maintained !!!! This is part of the disaster that we call the IRL I have been seeing. (class3 and class3 limited laws)

  4. Jacqui,

    The dichotomy you describe is a result of one desk at FDEP and its predecessors not knowing or caring what the other desks are doing with different programs, some inherited from DER and some from DNR. They were in different buildings about ten miles apart across town from each other in Tallahassee suburbs. I remember opposing the designation of some waters as A/Ps and OFWs because they clearly were not eligible, including the North Fork (pushed by Maggie Hurchalla as I recall), and such a designation was inconsistent with the designation “impaired waters” (polluted) by another branch of DER. That was back in the 1980s, when I use to visit both agencies at least once a year, often more times, often talking with the agencies’ directors and second echelon leaders. I even remember talking with Elton Gissendanner in the men’s room at DNR before he departed in a scandal. I was friendly with his successor, Tom Gardner. I frequently argued various subjects with Victoria Tshinkle and Pam McVety of DER.

    But, lower level staff was entrenched bureaucracy and intransigent. How could they be wrong?

    In the 1990s (after the 1993 merger of DER and much of DNR) FDEP changed the old four classes of waters to the present six or more, and they’ve never really integrated or reconciled the new and old classes.

    Kevin may remember more details than I do. We both had to resign from the Board of the old Environmental Coalition when Maggie and Donna Melzer took it over in a coup. I eventually threw away the numerous banker boxes of papers I had on three levels of book shelves about 12 feet long in my office.

    W.E. “Ted” Guy, Jr.

    643 SW Fuge Rd

    Stuart, Fl 34997

    (772) 287-4106 (home)

    (772) 485-1866 (cell/car)

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