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Florida Drought Conditions Quick Links

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 12, 2007

CONTACTS:

Jesus Rodriguez
South Florida Water Management District
Office: (561) 682-6060   Cellular: (561) 568-8025

Randy Smith
South Florida Water Management District
Office: (561) 682-6197   Cellular: (561) 389-3386

Nestor Yglesias
SFWMD, Miami-Dade Regional Service Center
Office: (305) 377-7274 ext 7289 Cellular: (305) 299-4503

Tammy Moore
SFWMD, Broward Service Center
Office: (954) 713-3200 ext 4983 Cellular: (561) 985-3700

Missie Barletto
SFWMD, Okeechobee Service Center
Office: (863) 462-5260  or  (800) 250-4200, ext. 3006

Linette Trabulsy
SFWMD, Martin/St. Lucie Service Center
Office: (772) 223-2600, ext. 3605 Cellular: (772) 216-5981

Judy Haner
SFWMD, Big Cypress Basin
Office: (239) 597-1505, ext.7603 Cellular: (239) 229-7254

Susan Sanders
SFWMD, Ft. Myers Service Center
Office: (239) 338-2929, ext. 7715 Cellular: (239) 229-7295

Cecelia Weaver
SFWMD, Florida Keys Service Center
Office: (305) 853-3219, Ext. 7091 Cellular: (305) 797-2923

Severe Water Shortage Declared for Most of the South Florida Water Management District

~Water Level in Lake Okeechobee Drops to Record April Low~

West Palm Beach, FL – Welcomed, recent rains did little to improve drought-related conditions across South Florida as water levels continue to drop. Today, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) declared a severe water shortage in most of its 16-county territory and an extreme water shortage in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

See a Map of the Water Shortage Areas [PDF - 2 MB] Exit Disclaimer

As part of a series of orders approved today by the SFWMD Governing Board, the SFWMD has formally issued the following, which are effective April 13:

  • Modified Phase III, or extreme, water shortage declaration for Everglades Agricultural Area basins located within the Lake Okeechobee Service Area
  • Phase II, or severe, water shortage declaration for the Lower East Coast Service Area, which comprises eastern Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, along with a small portion of Martin County served by Tequesta Water Utilities
  • Phase II, or severe, water shortage declaration for the Lower West Coast Service Area, which comprises Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and a portion of Charlotte Counties
  • Phase I, or moderate, water shortage declaration for the Upper East Coast Service area, which comprises Martin and St. Lucie counties.
  • Existing Phase II restrictions continue for the remaining portions of the Lake Okeechobee Service Area, along with a cease withdrawal order for SFWMD-permitted agricultural users in Martin and St. Lucie counties withdrawing from District canals.
  • A detailed Water Delivery Plan affecting agricultural users in the Lake Istokpoga area was also approved. Phase II restrictions are now in effect for other users in this area.

"We appreciate the public's understanding and compliance with the new water use restrictions," said Kevin McCarty, chairman of the SFWMD Governing Board. "This new set of restrictions represents some of the toughest cutbacks we've ever had to endure in South Florida, but we're all in this together and we all have to do our part."

The water level in Lake Okeechobee, the source of water for the Florida Everglades and the primary back-up water supply for most residents of the SFWMD, is at the lowest elevation ever recorded in the month of April. If drought conditions persist, water managers expect the lake level to drop below its record low of 8.97 feet above sea level, recorded on May 24, 2001. At just over 10 feet above sea level today, the lake level is so low this year that water from the lake cannot be used to replenish the regional supply.

"We're at a point where every drop of water makes a difference, and water conservation needs to be part of everyone's daily routine," said Carol Ann Wehle, executive director of the SFWMD. "Despite recent rain events, we have entered what may be the worst drought in recordable South Florida history, and even this latest action from our Governing Board may not be enough to see us through the current dry season without the need for further restrictions."

Under the new restrictions, residents in the Lower East Coast and Lower West Coast will be limited to a two-day-per-week, four-hour-per-day irrigation schedule, and permitted water users, such as golf courses and large commercial users, will be required to achieve a 30-percent reduction in their overall water consumption. Residents in the Upper East Coast will be required to observe a three-day-per-week, four-hour-per-day irrigation schedule, and permitted water users here will be required to achieve a 15-percent reduction in their overall water consumption. These restrictions apply to all water from traditional sources, including water from public utilities, private wells, canals, ponds and lakes.

Agricultural users in the Everglades Agricultural Area will be required to achieve a 45-percent reduction in their overall water consumption. The remaining agricultural users in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area will be required to achieve a 30-percent reduction in their overall water consumption. Residential users whose water source is Lake Okeechobee or any of the surface water canals recharged by the Lake will continue to follow a two-day-per-week, four-hour-per-day irrigation schedule.

The following is a summary of specific restrictions by geographic area:

~ Lake Okeechobee Service Area - Everglades Agricultural Basins – Phase III Restrictions
Phase III mandatory water use restrictions will go into effect on April 13 in the Everglades Agricultural Area, just south of Lake Okeechobee. Agricultural water users in this area are required to reduce their consumption of Lake Okeechobee-connected surface water by 45 percent. These users have been notified personally of the specific nature of restrictions pertaining to this order and are encouraged to voluntarily exercise additional water conservation measures as practicable.

~ Lake Okeechobee Service Area – Phase II Restrictions
Phase II mandatory water use restrictions have been in place since March 22 in areas surrounding Lake Okeechobee, predominantly impacting agricultural, industrial and commercial water users in parts of Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Lee and Martin counties. It also applies to a relatively small number of residential users whose water source is Lake Okeechobee – or any of the surface water canals recharged by the lake – and utility customers in South Bay, Belle Glade, Pahokee and Clewiston.

Agricultural water users in these areas are required to reduce their consumption of surface water by 30 percent. These users have been notified personally of the specific nature of restrictions pertaining to this order and are encouraged to voluntarily exercise additional water conservation measures as practicable.

Residential users in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area who irrigate from surface water canals will be required to continue limiting outdoor irrigation times to two days per week. Residents with odd home addresses are allowed to water between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, while residents with even home addresses are allowed to water between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Thursdays and Sundays. Car and boat washing are allowed only during the designated watering days and times.

The Phase II restrictions in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area apply to users who get their water from Lake Okeechobee, public utilities, canals, ponds and lakes. Groundwater sources (wells) are not restricted in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area. The SFWMD is monitoring conditions in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area on a weekly basis to assess the need for further restrictions.

~ Eastern Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties; small portion of Martin County served by Tequesta Water Utilities – Phase II Restrictions
Phase II mandatory water use restrictions go into effect April 13 in eastern Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, along with a specific portion of Martin county. Phase II water restrictions target outdoor water use, limiting lawn watering and car washing to two days a week: Wednesdays and Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for addresses that end in an odd number; Thursdays and Sundays from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for even-number addresses.

These limitations and other actions and are intended to produce a 30 percent reduction in overall demand on our water resources by all uses, including agricultural, industrial, commercial, golf course, landscaping and residential water users. The Phase II restrictions in this region apply to users who get their water from public utilities, private wells, canals, ponds and lakes.

~ Lee, Collier, Hendry, and Glades Counties; portion of Charlotte County – Phase II Restrictions
Phase II mandatory water use restrictions go into effect April 13 in Lee, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties, along with a portion of Charlotte County. Phase II water restrictions target outdoor water use, limiting lawn watering and car washing to two days a week: Wednesdays and Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for addresses that end in an odd number; Thursdays and Sundays from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for even-number addresses.

These limitations and other actions and are intended to produce a 30 percent reduction in overall demand on our water resources by all uses, including agricultural, industrial, commercial, golf course, landscaping and residential water users. The Phase II restrictions in this region apply to users who get their water from public utilities, private wells, canals, ponds and lakes.

~ Martin and St. Lucie Counties – Phase I Restrictions
Phase I mandatory water use restrictions go into effect April 13 in Martin and St. Lucie counties. Phase I water restrictions target outdoor water use, limiting lawn watering and car washing to three days a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for addresses that end in an odd number; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for even-number addresses.

These limitations and other actions and are intended to produce a 15 percent reduction in overall demand on our water resources by all uses, including agricultural, industrial, commercial, golf course, landscaping and residential water users. The Phase I restrictions in this region apply to users who get their water from public utilities, private wells, canals, ponds and lakes.

~ St. Lucie Agricultural Area (parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties) – Cease Withdrawal Agricultural
A mandatory cease withdrawal restriction has been in place since March 22 in the St. Lucie County Agricultural Area, impacting primarily permitted agricultural users who draw water directly from the C-23, C-24 and C-25 canals when canal levels drop below 14 feet. The agricultural users may use alternative water sources from the deep Floridan aquifer to augment their supplies during the emergency.

~ Lake Istokpoga Area/Upper Indian Prairie Basin (portions of Highlands and Glades counties) – Water Delivery Plan Agricultural; Phase II restrictions other users
A water shortage emergency order has been in place since October 2006 for the Upper Indian Prairie basin, primarily impacting permitted agricultural users who withdraw water directly from Lake Istokpoga-connected surface water sources. A detailed Water Delivery Plan outlines the specific limits on agricultural water users in the area. Other users in the area are now under Phase II restrictions.

Mandatory Water Restrictions Being Enforced
Under the various orders, specific cutbacks apply to large consumptive use permit holders such as agriculture, nurseries, golf courses and other commercial and recreational users of water. The South Florida Water Management District monitors and enforces the restrictions for permit holders.

Residential and commercial water use restrictions are also mandatory and are enforced by local government through its law enforcement or zoning and code enforcement agencies.

Along with periodic rains, irrigating two days a week or less is enough to keep lawns and landscape healthy, which saves thousands of gallons of water. In addition, the Phase I and Phase II restrictions allow low-volume, spot-watering using a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the landscape watering days.

The SFWMD continues to encourage both residential and agricultural water users throughout the District to reduce their water consumption and observe more aggressive water conservation practices as practicable. While voluntary conservation also is encouraged for users of alternative water supply sources, the use of 100 percent reclaimed water, an alternative water source, is not subject to restrictions. The use of water for health, fire, safety and other essential purposes also is not restricted. 

For additional information, residents are encouraged to call the SFWMD’s toll-free Water Shortage Hotline at 1-800-662-8876 or contact their regional SFWMD service center Exit Disclaimer. Helpful water conservation tips, TV and radio public service announcements, and specific information on current water use restrictions are available at www.sfwmd.gov/conserve Exit Disclaimer.

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Last updated: April 13, 2007

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