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Florida Drought Conditions Quick Links

Frequently Asked Questions


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What is the average rainfall per year in Florida? How much rainfall has Florida received so far in 2009?

Statewide, Florida receives an average (1901-2001) of 54.02 inches of rainfall a year. The nation as a whole averages 30 inches per year. Nevada, the driest state, has an average rainfall of only 9 inches per year.

Total annual rainfall for Florida typically varies (sometimes greatly) from one part of the state to another, from one season to another, and from one year to the next. Such rainfall variations have direct impacts upon surface water and groundwater supplies.

This is the case so far in 2009. According to the Florida Climate Center at Florida State University, so far in 2009 (January 1 – March 31), Miami has only received 2.25 inches of rainfall while Jacksonville has received nearly nine. On average (1901-2001), during the first three months of the year, Florida receives 9.78 inches of rainfall.

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What is a "water year"?

Florida’s water year is the period from May 1 through April 30.

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How is drought defined?

A drought is a period of unusually dry weather that persists long enough to cause serious problems such as crop damage and/or water supply shortages. The severity of the drought depends upon the degree of moisture deficiency, the duration and the size of the affected area.

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Are we in a drought now?

Parts of Florida, including much of Central, South and Southwest Florida are experiencing drought conditions.

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Has there been a drought in Florida in the past?

Periods of low rainfall occur naturally in Florida. Major statewide or regional droughts occurred in recent decades, including the early 1970s, the early 1980s, the 1989-1990, 1999-2001, 2006-2007 and currently. Even though average annual rainfall in Florida is 54 inches (greater than any other state but Louisiana), it is not evenly distributed and has some unusual characteristics that tend to produce periods of water shortages.

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Can we predict when the next drought will occur in Florida, or when the current drought conditions will end?

No. Although accurate, detailed long-term weather forecasting would be extremely valuable for many applications, this capability does not yet exist. However, significant progress is being made in climate research that helps us understand fundamental oceanic and atmospheric conditions associated with drought.

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What are typical reductions in urban water use during droughts?

The reductions depend on what Water Management District you live in.

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How do droughts affect groundwater use?

Groundwater is water that is stored in the ground, not often in caves but mostly in the spaces between soil and rock. Groundwater does not occur everywhere – it depends on the type of rock in the area.

Groundwater is very different to rivers and lakes. When it rains, rivers and lakes respond very quickly (within minutes or hours) by increasing flows and levels. But the effect of rainfall on groundwater may not be seen for days or weeks, because it takes time for the water to seep into the soil and move slowly down to the aquifer (the rock that holds groundwater).

In Florida, about 90 percent of our drinking water comes from groundwater.

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Why isn't seawater desalting the answer to meeting water needs during droughts?

Although improvements in desalting technology are increasing its efficiency, the high energy costs associated with seawater desalting make it prohibitively expensive for most water agencies, compared to other alternatives.

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Where can I find information about reservoir levels or river flows?

The five Florida Water Management Districts provide this information for the State's major reservoirs and rivers.

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Specific information for Water Management Districts:

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Last updated: May 01, 2009

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