Water-Related News

Registration now open for 2024 Lakes & Ponds Education Day

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This FREE workshop is intended for all citizens interested in the health and management of our water resources and green spaces. There will be special focus on maintaining and managing stormwater ponds. It will be an opportunity to share information, to gain useful management tips, and to learn more about the efforts of similar organizations. This event is a great opportunity to learn about Best Management Practices in and around Florida’s lakes and ponds. We will also have fun raffle items and a free plant giveaway at the end of the event!

This event is offered in person and on ZOOM.

PLEASE REGISTER BEFORE April 11th, 2024.

For more information or to inquire about having your business become an event sponsor, please contact Melissa Harrison: mharrison@pinellas.gov

The Atlantic is hotter, earlier. That’s a bad sign for hurricane season, Florida corals

It’s only February, but sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are already hitting early summer levels, a worrying trend that could indicate an active hurricane season ahead — or another marine heat wave.

Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami, called this early season heat “very, very exceptional,” and said it’s a strong sign that the upcoming hurricane season could see an above-average number of storms.

In the North Atlantic, he said water temperatures are running three months ahead of schedule, at May-level temperatures. In the main development region of the Atlantic, where most hurricanes are born, McNoldy said sea surface temperatures are closer to July levels.

“That is like hurricane season out there right now,” he said. “We’re just blowing past all the other years, there’s no comparison.”

But hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1, leaving plenty of long weeks of heating between now and the official start date. High sea surface temperatures are closely connected with more storm formations and an earlier start to the season. Scientists have suggested that climate change-driven warming has pushed the start of the hurricane season above two weeks earlier, to mid-May.

NOAA rolls out new tool to predict river levels

TAMPA – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration created a new website for anyone in the country to check river levels.

During heavy rain events, like hurricanes, rivers across Florida can rise to dangerous levels. For those living near these rivers, it can be dangerous and damaging when they overflow their banks.

These hydrographs show the current river stage, forecast and history over the past 30 days.

The previous website only showed 72 hours of history. The user can choose multiple options to include on the maps such as watches, warnings and advisories for flood stages.

The new website has more mobile capability with downloadable GIS data available.

The website is still in its experimental stage, but it can be accessed here.

Florida DEP seeks stay on judicial ruling that removes its authority over wetland permits

On Feb. 15th, 2024, a federal judge ruled that EPA erred in handing off authority over wetlands permitting to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

On Feb. 26th, the DEP filed a motion seeking a partial stay in response to the federal court order divesting DEP of its authority to issue State 404 Program permits in Florida.

Statement from DEP:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is currently evaluating all legal options in light of the court’s order.

All activity under the State 404 Program is paused until further order of the court, including the more than 1,000 State 404 permit applications that were pending before DEP. As an initial step to limit this disruption, DEP filed a motion seeking a partial stay so Florida may continue to process the applications that would not affect any listed species.

Unless stayed, the court’s ruling will disrupt pending permit applications, including those associated with the restoration of America’s Everglades and critical infrastructure projects for a more resilient Florida.

Updates on the status of Florida’s State 404 Program will be routinely posted on this webpage.

SWFWMD extends watering restrictions for Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties

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February 27, 2024 – Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order remains in effect Districtwide

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board voted today to extend one-day-per-week watering restrictions for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties until July 1. This extension mirrors the existing water shortage order currently in effect for Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Manatee, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties; portions of Charlotte, Highlands and Lake counties; the City of Dunnellon and The Villages in Marion County; and the portion of Gasparilla Island in Lee County.

Despite having Districtwide above-average rainfall during the winter months (Nov.-Jan.), we still have a 12-month rainfall deficit of about 7.4 inches. While we have seen some short-term improvements with rainfall, most of the Tampa Bay area continues to experience drier-than-normal conditions. Additionally, Tampa Bay Water's (TBW) 15.5-billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir is still approximately 8.5 billion gallons below its normal capacity. The District also approved a request today from TBW to temporarily increase its permitted withdrawals from the Alafia River from 10% to 19% above the baseline flow to store additional water in the reservoir for its use in the coming spring dry season.

As a reminder, the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order does not change allowable watering schedules for most counties, however, it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use and twice-per-week lawn watering schedules remain in effect except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments. Residents are asked to check their irrigation systems to ensure they are working properly. This means testing and repairing broken pipes and leaks and fixing damaged or tilted sprinkler heads. Residents should also check their irrigation timer to ensure the settings are correct and the rain sensor is working properly.

Once-per-week lawn watering days and times are as follows unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect (Citrus, Hernando and Sarasota counties, and the cities of Dunedin and Venice, have local ordinances that remain on one-day-per-week schedules):

If your address (house number) ends in...

  • ...0 or 1, water only on Monday
  • ...2 or 3, water only on Tuesday
  • ...4 or 5, water only on Wednesday
  • ...6 or 7, water only on Thursday
  • ...8 or 9*, water only on Friday

* and locations without a discernible address

Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties under two acres in size may only water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties two acres or larger may only water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Low-volume watering of plants and shrubs (micro-irrigation, soaker hoses, hand watering) is allowed any day and any time.

The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District.

For additional information about the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order, visit the District’s website WaterMatters.org/Restrictions. For water conserving tips, visit WaterMatters.org/Water101.

Climate change is throwing the water cycle into chaos across the U.S.

As the planet continues to warm, this cycle is expected to be increasingly stretched, warped and broken.

The water cycle that shuttles Earth’s most vital resource around in an unending, life-giving loop is in trouble. Climate change has disrupted that cycle’s delicate balance, upsetting how water circulates between the ground, oceans and atmosphere.

The events of 2023 show how significant these disruptions have become. From extreme precipitation and flooding to drought and contaminated water supplies, almost every part of the U.S. faced some consequence of climate change and the shifting availability of water.

The water cycle controls every aspect of Earth’s climate system, which means that as the climate changes, so too does nearly every step of water’s movement on the planet. In some places, the availability of water is becoming increasingly scarce, while in others, climate change is intensifying rainfall, floods and other extreme weather events.

As the planet continues to warm, this cycle is expected to be increasingly stretched, warped and broken.

Univ. Miami developing artificial reef modules to reduce coastal flooding

University of Miami researchers are developing artificial reefs to reduce flooding, create habitats for marine life and make Florida's coastlines more resilient.

Their inventors compare them to air bags or speed bumps in the sea. And they just might be the future of fighting coastal flooding in Florida.

They’re called Seahives, and they’re a new kind of artificial reef being developed and field-tested by researchers at the University of Miami. They’re 18-foot-long, hexagonal-shaped hollow tubes that get stacked in pyramid-like shapes on the seafloor just offshore. The 2,500-pound concrete structures are perforated to allow seawater to flow through them.

The goal of these devices is twofold: Dissipate wave energy and slow down potentially destructive waves before they hit the shore, while simultaneously providing a hospitable environment to grow corals or mangroves.

They’re designed to be a win-win: Reduce flooding, build habitat.

In March and August 2023, clusters of Seahives were installed at two pilot projects at Miami Beach and Pompano Beach, where they’re currently being studied and evaluated. Miniature versions had previously been tested successfully in a giant water tank, but this is the real thing.

UF Study: About half of Floridians not aware of local water restrictions

Water restrictions can be set by cities, counties and the state’s water management districts

GAINESVILLE – Half of Florida residents don’t know about their local water restrictions, but those who are aware can be persuaded to abide by them, new University of Florida research shows.

Water restrictions can be set by cities, counties and the state’s water management districts.

But if homeowners don’t know the local or regional rules, it’s logical that they cannot develop favorable perceptions about these policies. Residential buy-in is the key to less irrigation, said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural education and communications.

“I think the most important finding is that we can now understand who intends to comply with irrigation restrictions in the future,” said Warner, lead author of the paper.

There are lots of reasons half the public doesn’t know about local water restrictions, Warner said.

“A simple explanation would be that there are either not enough educational messages, and/or the messages that do exist are not reaching the people they need to reach,” she said. “But another element is potentially that we have so many new residents to Florida.”

Even if people are aware of the restrictions but don’t fully understand them, that’s also a problem.

“Perceived complexity is the biggest barrier to compliance among people who are aware of these policies,” Warner said.

Photographer: Inland development is destroying Florida’s coastal freshwater wetlands

The object of Benjamin Dimmitt's pictorial and editorial attention has deteriorated significantly over the last few decades.

With the exception of its northern border with Alabama and Georgia, Florida is entirely surrounded by water. The state’s world famous sandy beaches make up about 825 miles of that coastline, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But wetlands comprise several hundred more miles of the Florida coast. And contrary to popular belief, the majority of those wetlands are not salt water, but fresh water. Their source is the outflow from the gigantic Floridan Aquifer that underlies Florida. But as Florida’s population has grown, the size and condition of those wetlands seems to be on the decline. That’s the subject of a new book by noted naturalist and photographer Benjamin Dimmitt. It’s entitled: “An Unflinching Look: Elegy for Wetlands.” In it he documents – in both words and images – the profound changes in the Chassahowitzka National Refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

USF’s ‘Flood Hub’ is helping the state look into resiliency needs

Resilience in the face of increasingly extreme weather is on the minds this week of those attending the annual Gulf of Mexico Alliance Conference in Tampa. And much of the work on resiliency will be done at the University of South Florida.

Many of us have heard the warnings about coastal flooding increasing because of strengthening storms and hurricanes. But before work can be done to address resilience in the face of these threats, we have to know what roads, buildings and utilities are at risk.

That's where the new Florida Flood Hub comes in. It was recently established at the USF College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg.

Once it is fully operational, Wes Brooks - Florida's chief resilience officer - says the hub will identify what's most vulnerable to flooding statewide.

“I believe that Florida will be the first state in the country - and certainly the largest for some time, I would suspect - to have assessed the flood vulnerability of virtually every single piece of infrastructure and critical asset that there is with the state's borders,” Brooks said.

Brooks told conference members that the hub will be a central repository for flood models and information.

“Once fully operational, the flood hub will also provide a statewide picture of flood risk in a clear and consistent manner that can be used for transparent and fair decision making,” he said, “while also significantly lowering the technical burden on local governments - like here in Tampa - to incorporate forward-looking flood data and municipal planning.”

Brooks adds that more than 230 planning grants have been awarded to counties and cities throughout the state.

Speakers at the conference also said the work will become critical as extreme weather becomes the "new normal."

Report: Florida received D– in coastal management and sea level rise preparations

The Surfrider Foundation took a look at how states are preparing for sea level rise, erosion and future infrastructure.

Florida's beaches span hundreds of miles, providing entertainment and an escape for folks to relax.

But our coastlines are under nearly constant threat, and according to a new report by The Surfrider Foundation, our beaches are degrading more and more every year.

The Surfrider Foundation took a look at how states are preparing for sea level rise, erosion, and future infrastructure.

The foundation's latest report shows that Florida decreased from a C– in 2022 to a D– in 2023 for these categories.

Local scientists attribute the issues to rising sea levels and more intense storms.

The Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory panel predicts that the Tampa Bay Area could experience sea level rise of up to 2.5 feet by 2050.

"We have choices to adapt or to maladapt," said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Crucial system of ocean currents is heading for a collapse due to climate change

A vital system of ocean currents could collapse within a few decades if the world continues to pump out planet-heating pollution, scientists are warning – an event that would be catastrophic for global weather and “affect every person on the planet.”

A new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature, found that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current – of which the Gulf Stream is a part – could collapse around the middle of the century, or even as early as 2025.

Scientists uninvolved with this study told CNN the exact tipping point for the critical system is uncertain, and that measurements of the currents have so far showed little trend or change. But they agreed these results are alarming and provide new evidence that the tipping point could occur sooner than previously thought.

The AMOC is a complex tangle of currents that works like a giant global conveyor belt. It transports warm water from the tropics toward the North Atlantic, where the water cools, becomes saltier and sinks deep into the ocean, before spreading southwards.

It plays a crucial role in the climate system, helping regulate global weather patterns. Its collapse would have enormous implications, including much more extreme winters and sea level rises affecting parts of Europe and the US, and a shifting of the monsoon in the tropics.

Tampa Bay Water: More conservation is needed as spring dry-season approaches

TBW logo

CLEARWATER – El Niño rainfall, cooler weather and watering restrictions have helped lower water use in the Tampa Bay area; however, the region remains in a Stage 1 Drought Alert with the driest months of the year fast-approaching.

Tampa Bay Water asks residents to continue water-thrifty habits into March, April and May, which are the driest months of the year in Tampa Bay.

Residents should not overwater this spring and only water on their designated day. Outdoor watering in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties is limited to one-day-per-week per the Southwest Florida Water Management District water shortage order that took effect on Dec. 1, 2023. Residents can find their watering day by simply entering their zip codes at MyWaterDay.org.

Other ways to save water include:

  • Smart Lawn Watering: By skipping an irrigation cycle when it rains or has rained, you can save between 1,500 and 2,500 gallons of water.
  • Leak Detection: The average family can waste 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually, from household leaks.
  • Toilet Flapper Check: A warped or poorly fitting flapper can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day and may cost you hundreds of dollars a year.
  • Turn Off the Tap: Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day.
  • Maximize Dishwasher and Laundry Loads: Running the dishwasher only when it's full can save the average family nearly 320 gallons of water annually.
  • Hose Nozzle Usage: Using a hose nozzle saves about 8 gallons per minute by keeping the water from running constantly.
  • Fix Broken Sprinklers: A broken sprinkler can waste 25,000 gallons of water in six months.
  • Get rebates for water-efficient upgrades: Install water efficient fixtures and technology and receive rebates through the Tampa Bay Water Wise program.

Regional water facts as of Feb. 1, 2024:

  • The region remains in a Stage 1 Drought Alert due to an 8.3-inch rainfall deficit averaged over the past 12 months.
  • Rainfall in January averaged about 2.7 inches, 0.2 inches below normal.
  • Average river flows are in a 9.1 million gallons per day (mgd) deficit when looking at the past 12 months. When river flows are lower, less water is available to support the regional surface water system.
  • Regional water demands in January averaged 186.77 mgd 7.43 mgd higher than January 2023, but 4.38 mgd lower than demands in December 2023.
  • The C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir is at 7.1 billion gallons, 46% of its 15.5-billion-gallon capacity, which helps maintain water supply to the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant.

New NASA mission could help Lake Okeechobee, red tide in Florida

CAPE CANAVERAL – NASA will be taking images of bodies of water on Earth and using that information and data to predict how healthy, or unhealthy, water surfaces are.

NASA is elevating what it means to take photos of Earth. The newly launched satellite is a game-changer, according to the agency.

They’ll be taking images of bodies of water, and that information and data will then be used to predict how healthy, or unhealthy, water surfaces are.

The program is called PACE, which stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud ocean Ecosystem mission.

“PACE is going to see earth in a way we’ve never seen before, in so many different colors,” Ivona Cetinic, an oceanographer with NASA’s PACE, said. “I’m hoping this data will get to everybody and help them understand how beautiful our home planet is.”

NASA said this will enhance how they study water and the environment, including algae blooms and red tide, which are issues found in South Florida.