SFWMD: Tighter Water Restrictions Likely

The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season ended Friday, November 30, officially making last month’s Tropical Storm Noel the final major rain event of the South Florida wet season.  Today, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) continued to advise South Florida residents to prepare for a prolonged, severe water shortage with the likelihood of tighter water restrictions ahead.

“Forecasts for a drier than normal dry season are already proving accurate, and with water levels so critically low, now is the time to observe more aggressive water conservation practices,” said Carol Ann Wehle, executive director of the SFWMD.  “There is much we can do both inside and outside the home to collectively save millions of gallons of water each day.  Conservation is the simplest, cheapest, most effective way to stretch our water supplies.”

Recent Rainfall Measures
SFWMD meteorologists recorded a half-inch of rainfall District-wide for November 2007, just 19 percent of the historical average for the month.  This marks the region’s fifth driest November since 1932, just two-tenths of an inch more than the record low of 0.30 inches reached twice, in November 1940 and November 1944. (Click here to view district rainfall map)

District-wide rainfall through the first 11 months of 2007 also remains well below normal at 41.6 inches – an eight-inch deficit relative to the year-to-date average. 

Current Water Levels
Surface water and groundwater levels across most of the District remain unseasonably low and already are showing signs of decline with the start of the dry season.  The water level in Lake Kissimmee, for instance, is well below its regulation schedule as established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

At 10.23 feet above see level this morning, Lake Okeechobee remains nearly five feet below its historical average – and more than a foot below previous historic lows – for this time of year.  In fact, water levels in the lake have been setting new record daily lows for more than six months.  Lake Okeechobee is the source of water for 500,000 acres of farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area and is a primary back-up supply to more than five million South Floridians.

Groundwater levels in Lee, Collier and other west coast counties are two-to-four feet lower today than this time last year, with many monitoring wells already inside the lowest 10 percent of their historic water elevations.  Without sufficient freshwater in the regional system to prevent saltwater intrusion, salinity levels in the Upper Caloosahatchee Estuary are high and, should they continue to climb, are likely to threaten oysters and aquatic vegetation.

Water Restrictions Remain
The SFWMD continues to remind residents that water restrictions are still in effect and is encouraging both residential and agricultural water users across South and Central Florida to voluntarily reduce water consumption and observe water conservation practices.  Landscape irrigation accounts for up to half of all household water consumption, so watering less frequently can help homeowners conserve water.  Reducing indoor water use can be achieved by shutting the water off while brushing one’s teeth; taking shorter showers; running washing machines and dishwashers only with full loads; or replacing old appliances and fixtures with more efficient models.  These practices can save hundreds of gallons of water a month.

For more information on water conservation, visit www.savewaterfl.com .

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