March rains bring relief to Fla. water shortage

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) announced that in March the region received above-average rainfall for the second month in a row. Rainfall in both Feb. and March has helped improve surface and groundwater levels in most areas of the District's 16 counties. South Florida remains in a regional water shortage, however, and continues to recover from a multi-year rainfall deficit. Landscape irrigation restrictions remain in place...

Apr 9th, 2008

• Surface and groundwater levels improving

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, April 4, 2008 -- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) announced that in March the region received above-average rainfall for the second month in a row. Rainfall in both Feb. and March has helped improve surface and groundwater levels in most areas of the District's 16 counties. South Florida remains in a regional water shortage, however, and continues to recover from a multi-year rainfall deficit. Landscape irrigation restrictions remain in place.

"These two wet months have brought much-needed relief to our two-year dry spell," said SFWMD Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle. "The rainfall -- combined with proactive water management and Florida's citizens, farms and businesses doing their part to conserve water -- has helped improve water resource conditions."

District-wide March rainfall averaged 3.35 inches, slightly higher (about one-third inch) than the historical average for the month. Feb. rainfall averaged 2.99 inches, about an inch higher than the historical average. Early April also saw above-average rainfall District-wide, with 0.50 inches recorded in three days, or about one-quarter inch above average.

Since the start of the dry season in November, District meteorologists have recorded an average of 9.79 inches of rain District-wide. While this is only 79 percent of the historical average, or a deficit of 2.55 inches, it is a significant improvement over this same period last year, when an average of only 6 inches of rain fell across the District, or 50 percent of the historical average.

In some areas of the District, dry season rainfall is now close to historical averages as a result of the Feb. and March rains. Hendry County through western Palm Beach County and eastern Broward County received over 90 percent of that region's historical average. The District's four northernmost basins -- Upper Kissimmee, Lower Kissimmee, Okeechobee and Martin/St. Lucie County basins -- received 66-76 percent of historical rainfall average since November. The basin along Florida's southwest coast (Lee and Collier counties) received 70 percent of the historical average.

Rainfall Outlook & Current Water Levels
The recent, much-needed rainfall is considered a rarity during the current La Niña conditions. La Niña is a strong weather anomaly in the equatorial Pacific that almost always signals below average rainfall for Florida in April. Because of La Niña conditions, all official long-term climatic forecasts continue to call for below-average rainfall for the region.

Groundwater and surface water levels across most of the District have responded favorably to the moderate gains from February, March and early April rain events. Groundwater levels are in good shape and are higher now than this time last year, with the exception of a few wells in Lee and Collier counties that remain low. Water levels in the Kissimmee River are at their regulation, or optimum, levels and higher than this time last year.

Water levels in the three Everglades Water Conservation Areas in western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are near or above their regulation, or optimum, levels for this time of year and nearly a foot higher than this time last year.

At 10.32 feet above sea level this morning, Lake Okeechobee levels have risen three-quarters of an inch over the past week and are expected to continue this upward trend. However, levels remain about 4 feet below the historical average for this time of year. Lake Okeechobee is the source of water for 500,000 acres of farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area and serves as a primary backup supply to more than five million South Floridians.

Reminder: April is Water Conservation Month in Florida
South Florida's dry season begins in November and ends with the start of the wet season, typically in June. One of the year's driest months is April, which historically averages only 2.5 inches of rain District-wide. Next week, the SFWMD Governing Board will consider a resolution declaring April as Water Conservation Month in Florida.

"April is the ideal time to heighten water use awareness," Wehle said. "We must create a long-term culture of conservation to protect South Florida's limited water resources, not only in April but every month of the year."

To achieve that, stakeholders have been meeting with the District to develop a year-round water conservation program for South Florida. Their recommendations will be presented to the Governing Board next week to guide an enduring, conservation program across the entire region.

For additional information on water shortage conditions, irrigation restrictions or water conservation, visit: www.sfwmd.gov/conserve

The South Florida Water Management District is a regional, governmental agency that oversees the water resources in the southern half of the state -- 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys. It is the oldest and largest of the state's five water management districts.

###

More in Environmental