As manager of the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program, Vivianna Bendixson oversees a number of district water quality and natural systems initiatives and programs. Vivianna earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science from the College of Santa Fe and a Master of Science in environmental science from the University of Guam. She has been with the district since 2015.

By Vivianna Bendixson, SWIM Program Manager, Southwest Florida Water Management District

Q: Why is it important to use best practices when visiting rivers and springs?

A:  The Southwest Florida Water Management District has found direct links between river recreational use and environmental damage. For example, visitors leaving kayaks while on the river have trampled vegetation and eroded riverbanks and sand point bars. Also, numerous trees have been damaged from climbing and rope swinging. Over time, these actions can have negative long-term effects on these waterbodies.

Q: How does an education campaign help?

A: Many of the people visiting these rivers may not know how their actions directly cause environmental damage. By partnering with nearby businesses and community groups, the district uses a variety of materials to help educate visitors.

Q: What can visitors do to help protect the Chassahowitzka and Weeki Wachee rivers?

A: We encourage people to follow these best management practices to help reduce their environmental impact:

1.    Stay in the vessel when possible.

2.    If you have to leave the vessel, tie off in shallow waters.

3.    Avoid docking on riverbanks.

4.    Don’t trample vegetation or kick up silt.

5.    Avoid climbing on banks and walking on sand point bars.

6.    Don’t climb trees or use rope swings.

7.    Don’t throw out litter or leave anything behind.

8.    Trim boat motors to prevent propeller scarring.

Q: Do these tips apply to all river and springs systems?

A: While each system may have its own rules and regulations to follow, these are good tips to remember no matter where you visit. It’s always important to recreate responsibly and preserve these natural habitats.

Q: Where can I get more information about protecting these river systems?

A: Visit to learn more about protecting our river and spring systems.

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