August 5, 2008

July Rainfall Above Normal, but Water Restrictions Remain in Place

By Andy Reid, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Aug. 5--July rainfall brought an above-normal soaking, but South Florida water managers say that still wasn't enough to ease watering restrictions.

The region averaged 8.63 inches of rain in July, about 2 inches above normal, according to rainfall totals released Monday by the South Florida Water Management District.

That helped boost drought-strained Lake Okeechobee, the region's backup water supply, by about a foot. However, at 10.74 feet above sea level on Monday, the lake still was about 3 feet below normal.

Lake levels continue to suffer after water managers in 2006 lowered the lake in anticipation of a busy hurricane season, only to end up with the driest back-to-back years on record.

Local well fields and the Everglades water conservation areas that supplement them have recovered from drought conditions, but the district contends that the water shortage remains.

Most of South Florida remains under twice-a-week watering restrictions, with plans this fall to make that a year-round requirement.

The year-round proposal is intended to improve day-to-day conservation practices, helping to stretch water supplies during Florida's typically dry winter and spring.

"Occasional periods of wilt are not going to kill your lawn," district conservation officer Jesus Rodriguez said. "A two-day irrigation pattern is going to be able to get you through that."

Utilities, suffering from a drop-off in water sales due to watering restrictions, have threatened to file legal challenges if the district imposes permanent restrictions. A district vote is expected in the fall.

The district should start with a three-day-a-week limit that could be toughened as needed, said Bruce Adams, a consultant for the nursery industry who used to work for the district.

"Give the most options to local government," Adams said.

Andy Reid can be reached at or 561-228-5504.


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