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South Florida Records Two Driest Back-to-Back Years
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, January 8, 2008 (ENS) - The past two years have been the driest back-to-back calendar years in South Florida since rainfall recordkeeping began in 1932, meteorologists at the South Florida Water Management District confirmed today.

The 2006-2007 rainfall total of 83.63 inches district-wide displaces by nearly an inch the previous low of 84.59 inches that fell 50 years ago in 1955-56.

Last year was the ninth-driest year in the 76-year record with rainfall of just 42.88 inches, across the district, 82 percent of the historical average,

It followed rainfall of only 40.75 inches in 2006, the sixth-driest year on record.

The combined two-year total is nearly two feet less than the historical district-wide average of 104.5 inches for a typical two-year period.

"The district's rainfall data confirms that South Florida is still in the grips of a severe regional drought, which has led to a multi-year water shortage the likes of which we have never experienced," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann.

"South Florida residents - as well as water managers - must live with limited water supplies this dry season, and we all must practice conservation and follow the one-day-a-week restrictions if we are to successfully minimize the impacts of this water shortage," he said.

All during 2007, the district imposed one new water restriction after another in an effort to conserve scant water supplies.

Now, the most restrictive rules ever imposed in South Florida take effect next week.

In December and for the first time in the agency's history, the district declared an extreme water shortage, and established a one-day-a-week watering schedule for residential landscape irrigation.

Water management is easier when plants with similar water needs are grouped together, advises the South Florida Water Management District. (Photo courtesy SFWMD)

Landscape irrigation accounts for up to half of all household water consumption in the state of Florida and totals more than seven billion gallons per day nationwide.

The new restrictions become effective Tuesday, January 15. Enforcement, including issuing of of civil fines and notices of violation will begin on that date. For information on watering days and times, as well as restrictions on specific use classes, visit www.sfwmd.gov/conserve.

All of the district's major basins, except for residential areas of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, experienced below average rainfall in 2007.

"Although some southeastern counties have enjoyed average or above average rainfall this year, we have limited storage options in these densely populated areas, limiting our ability to capture large quantities of water," said Carol Ann Wehle, the district's executive director.

"The lack of rainfall in central and northern portions of the district is a concern for all of us because virtually all residential areas depend on it to augment their water supplies," she said.

Surface water and groundwater levels across most of the district remain unseasonably low and continue to decline due to below average dry season rainfall.

Water levels in Lakes Istokpoga and Kissimmee, for instance, are well below regulation schedules established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while water levels in Kissimmee Basin monitoring wells are within the lowest 10 percent of historic elevations, the district meteorologists said.

The Lake Okeechobee basin received 30.71 inches of rain, about 67 percent of that basin's historical average, or a deficit of nearly 15 inches for the year.

At 10.12 feet above sea level Monday, Lake Okeechobee remains more than four feet below its historical average - and nearly a foot below previous historic lows - for this time of year.

In fact, water levels in the lake have been setting new record daily lows for more than seven months, said Wehle.

Lake Okeechobee is the source of water for 500,000 acres of farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area and serves as a primary back-up supply to more than five million South Floridians.

Groundwater levels in Lee, Collier and other west coast counties remain between two and four feet lower today than this time last year, with many monitoring wells already inside the lowest 10 percent of their historic water elevations.

For additional information on the water shortage, irrigation restrictions or water conservation, call the district's toll-free Water Conservation Hotline at 1-800-662-8876. Helpful water conservation tips also are available at www.savewaterfl.com.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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