The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program is an intergovernmental effort to reestablish and maintain the ecosystem of south Florida. One element of the restoration effort is the development of a firm scientific basis for resource decision making.The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides scientitic information as part of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program. The USGS began its own project, called the South Florida Ecosystem Project in fiscal year 1995 for the purpose of gathering hydrologic, cartographic, and geologic data that relate to the mainland of south Florida, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys and Reef ecosystems.
Historical changes in water-management practices to accommodate a large and rapidly growing urban population along the Atlantic coast, as well as intensive agricultural activities, have resulted in a highly managed hydrologic system with canals, levees, and pumping stations. These structures have altered the hydology of the Everglades ecosystem on both coastal and interior lands. Surface-water flows in a direction south of Lake Okeechobee have been regulated by an extensive canal network, begun in the 1940's, to provide for drainage, flood control, saltwater intrusion control, agricultural requirements, and various environmental needs. Much of the development and subsequent monitoring of canal and river discharge south of Lake Okeechobee has traditionally emphasized the eastern coastal areas of Florida. Recently, more emphasis has been placed on providing a more accurate water budget for internal canal flows.