Managing High Water Levels in the Wet Season
Following an emergency declaration from Gov. Rick Scott and an emergency order issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is implementing an array of actions, in addition to other efforts that were already underway, to lower levels in Lake Okeechobee and move water into the Everglades Water Conservation Areas (WCAs). These measures, which would have been slowed by typical agency approval processes, are moving forward on an expedited basis to help reduce the severity of and need for regulatory releases that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is making from the lake to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
South Florida's annual wet season got off to an intense start with 300 percent of normal rainfall across the region in May 2018, a record for the month. Locally, Martin and St. Lucie counties alone received 450 percent of the historical average for the month, with more than 16 inches of rain. This rainfall inundated the Water Conservation Areas and caused Lake Okeechobee to rise more than a foot. As a result, the USACE began making releases from the lake to the northern estuaries on June 1 for public safety.
SFWMD Hydrology and Hydraulics Bureau Chief Akin Owosina briefed the Governing Board on July 12, 2018, about the latest water conditions in South Florida and actions being taken to lower regional water levels.
Measures enabled by the DEP emergency order and Gov. Scott's emergency declaration include:
- Moving water out of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area in Palm Beach County into the C-18 Canal to create additional capacity in the L-8 Canal to move water south.
- Installed temporary pumps near the S-39 Structure to move additional water out of WCA-2 to the Hillsboro Canal on the Palm Beach-Broward county line, creating capacity in the conservation area to move water south.
- Installing temporary pumps at the S-151 Structure to move an additional 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water out of WCA-3A in Miami-Dade County, creating capacity in the conservation area to move water south.
- Moving more water into WCA-3B out of WCA-3A thereby reducing levels in WCA-3A.
- Installing temporary pumps at several locations in Miami-Dade County that will move water from the conservation areas into the L-28 and C-4 canals.
- Installing temporary pumps to increase the capacity of water that can be moved out of Water Conservation Area 3B into Shark River Slough and Everglades National Park by up to 200 cfs.
All of these emergency measures, coupled with actions SFWMD already had underway, help create capacity in the Water Conservation Areas to take water south from Lake Okeechobee. These ongoing actions include:
- Using the S-5A Pump Station in Palm Beach County to move 400 cfs out of the L-8 Canal to prevent water from gravity flowing back into Lake Okeechobee.
- Moving water to tide through every available structure, including the Hillsboro, North New River and Miami canals.
- Using the S-34 Structure to move 200 cfs out of WCA-2A into the North New River in Broward County.
- Fully utilizing the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin and L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, both components of Gov. Scott's Restoration Strategies Plan, to store water.
- Storing water on public lands through the Dispersed Water Management program.
- Working with private landowners to store water on their properties.
News, Operations Updates, Videos and More
- Videos: Operations Updates on Managing High Water
- News Release: SFWMD Taking Actions to Lower Water Levels Utilizing Governor's Declaration of State of Emergency – July 12, 2018
- Office of the Governor Executive Order No. 18-191: Emergency Management – Lake Okeechobee Discharges/Algae Blooms – July 9, 2018
- EOG News Release: Gov. Scott Issues Emergency Order to Combat Algal Blooms in South Florida – July 9, 2018
- News Release: Watch Latest Video Update on SFWMD Efforts to Alleviate High Water Emergency Situation – July 5, 2018
- News Release: SFWMD Unveils New Website to Keep Public Apprised of Efforts to Alleviate High Water Emergency Situation – June 28, 2018
- Media Advisory: SFWMD Temporary Pump Installation to Lower Water Levels in Water Conservation Areas – June 22, 2018
- Operations Update: SFWMD Takes Additional Action to Send Water South Under Direction of Gov. Rick Scott and Issuance of Emergency Order – June 21. 2018
- EOG News Release: Gov. Scott Directs DEP to Take Steps to Curb Potential Algae Blooms – June 20, 2018
- DEP Order: Emergency Measures Due to High Water Conditions in South Florida Region – June 20, 2018 [PDF]
- Letter from SFWMD Executive Director Ernie Marks to Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane Re: Lake Okeechobee Discharges – June 12, 2018 [PDF]
- News Release: SFWMD Taking Action to Address High Water Levels – June 8, 2018
Gov. Rick Scott spoke to the media on June 21, 2018, at SFWMD headquarters in West Palm Beach following a briefing on record South Florida rainfall.
Restoration Projects to Benefit the Northern Estuaries
Over the long term, the District is working with its federal partners at the Corps to make steady progress on several ecosystem restoration projects throughout the agency's 16-county region. Now under construction or being planned, these projects will collectively reduce harmful lake releases to the northern estuaries and capture local stormwater runoff – both of which are responsible for excess freshwater flows to the estuaries.
- Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir
- Indian River Lagoon - South: C‑44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area
- Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project
- Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project
- Central Everglades Planning Project
- Kissimmee River Restoration
- Lake Hicpochee Hydrologic Improvements
Where is the Latest Data for the Northern Estuaries?
Using SFWMD's monitoring network and technical information, a wealth of data is available on this website for the District's 16-county region, including the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries:
- Operational Planning – Find weekly operational reports and other information on the current state of the system and water control operations, including water quality and environmental conditions such as salinity levels, Lake Okeechobee water control structure operations recommendations, rainfall outlook models and more.
- Site Status Report – Check real-time water levels upstream and downstream of hundreds of water control structures, flow volume and more.
- Moving Water Interactive Map – Get updates on the water storage availability of key water bodies and the volume of water moved south from the lake through four water control structures. (NOTE: This information is updated each Tuesday.)
- System Constraints – Check the status of constraints in the regional water management system that affect how much water can be moved south.
- Rainfall Maps – See maps with historical rainfall totals, current radar-based rainfall estimates and more.
- DBHYDRO – Search this extensive environmental database for historical or up-to-date surface or groundwater information, as well as meteorological, hydrogeological and water quality data.
Data and Reports from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Daily Water Management Reports
- Lake Okeechobee Report
- Caloosahatchee River
- St. Lucie River
How Florida Agencies Respond to Algal Blooms
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the state's five water management districts, the Florida Department of Health (DOH), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other state agencies all work together to respond to algal blooms. Each agency has a specific role:
- DEP takes the lead in collecting and testing algal bloom samples as soon as they are observed. In addition, DEP staff can be deployed to take additional samples in response to blooms reported by citizens, other agencies or other sources. Sample results are reported to all appropriate agencies.
- SFWMD helps DEP as requested with collecting algal bloom samples. The District also reports any blooms observed during routine water quality sampling.
- DOH has the lead role when an algal bloom presents a risk to human health or there are reported health incidents associated with a bloom. DOH issues health advisories as it determines to be appropriate when toxicity levels are higher. It may also post warning signs when blooms affect public beaches or other areas where there is the risk of human exposure.
- FWC investigates dead fish and wildlife related to algal blooms.
For more information from DEP:
- Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response
- Freshwater Algal Blooms Frequently Asked Questions [PDF]
- Report an Algal Bloom