published: Saturday, October 13, 2012
We're singing in the rain, but still need to turn off the tap
If you are like us, the last several weeks probably have you thinking the drought has broken.
The newsroom has windows. We know how often we've looked up to see water pelting against the glass lately, it seems every day.
Actually it doesn't rain every day, and being Florida, rarely in the same spot two days in a row.
In other words, water recovery is uneven. In Highlands County we still need to exercise caution in our water use.
The News-Sun gets weekly updates from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, reporting aquifer levels and the amount of rainfall for the last seven days. At the end of every month SWFWMD then sends a summary of the four preceding weeks.
SWFWMD divides the state into three regions, in terms of data collection: North, Central and South. Highlands County is in the South region.
This is because rain does not fall evenly on Florida, especially during the summer when thunderstorms provide most of our rain. We all know it can be pouring on the Walmart in Avon Park while the sun shines on the Olympic Restaurant a few blocks away.
Generally, however, the news is good -- especially if current trends hold.
In September, the South had more than 2.5 inches of rain; in August almost 10 inches; in July more than 6; in June more than 13.
So what is the problem?
As much rain is falling, only in August and June was there more than the average. From April back to the January of 2012, we got only a fraction of the usual amount.
This means Florida is still recovering from the prolonged drought. And while we have definitely improved, we have a way to go, at least here in Highlands County.
In Highlands County, the aquifer level is at 2.56 feet. The normal range is from 0 to 8 feet.
This is a serious shortfall, especially if it stops raining, but given that the South region aquifer was 2.55 feet below the bottom of the normal range on April 27, we've seen a huge improvement.
We just need to see more.
Lakes on the ridge are 2.75 feet below normal. But, again, there are signs of recovery. Lakes in Highlands and south Polk counties were almost three 3 below normal in August and almost 4 feet below in September of 2011.
Mostly of course, the return of water depends on nature, but we would be wise to continue doing our part.
For starters, shut off the garden sprinklers when it rains.
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