Water-Related News

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

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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.