Water-Related News

Experts brainstorm ways to meet growth demands while protecting water supplies

The Nature Conservancy's Florida Chapter estimates roughly 1,000 people were moving to Florida every day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter's Executive Director Temperince Morgan says that rapid growth is stretching the state's water resources.

"Our current demands are exceeding our current supplies from traditional sources. We're seeing drawdowns and impacts to springs, lakes, and wetlands and other water bodies around the state," Morgan says.

Morgan says demand for freshwater will keep going up, especially in places like Central Florida, where more people are choosing to live.

"In recent years, public water supply demand has, for the first time in Florida history, begun to exceed agricultural demand. And the vast majority of that public water supply demand is for irrigation. So, to irrigate our lawns," Morgan says.

Her group is partnering with the University of Florida and a developer to study a new irrigation-free community—meaning a neighborhood that replaces grassy lawns with plants that are meant to live in Florida's specific climate without the need for frequent watering.

Polk County receives conservation easement grant

BARTOW – A $500,000 grant was awarded to Polk County for the purchase of a conservation easement in Southeast Polk, near the Avon Park Air Force Bombing Range.

The county, following Board approval, has two years to plan, negotiate and spend the funds to purchase easements in a buffer, known as a Military Influence Planning Area, around Avon Park Air Force Range. The application process for the grant was about a year in the making.

“Polk County submitted the application in partnership with Avon Park Air Force Range and Central Florida Regional Planning Council,” said Tabitha Biehl, Polk’s land and water natural areas manager. “This award would not have been possible without their support. Our partnership works together to create a buffer around the Avon Park Air Force Range in Polk that enables the continuation of military training exercises and protects Polk’s working landscapes and wilderness areas.”

Conservation easement purchases like this place limits on the development of land and help protect the existing environment on the property, while property owners retain full ownership of the land. In the case of this project, the easement purchases will protect the land buffer around the bombing range from development that could hinder military training exercises.

The next step in the process will be for Polk County to enter a grant agreement with the with the Florida Defense Support Task Force and the funds are administered through the Florida Enterprise, Inc., a nonprofit organization.

SWFWMD awards Splash! grants to Polk County

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $97,640.28 in grants to 43 educators within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Polk County:

  • Crystal Lake Middle School - Marcia Berger
  • Daniel Jenkins Academy - Melanie Tucker
  • Highland City Elementary School - Cynthia Kuhlman
  • Hillcrest Elementary School - Amber Johnson
  • John Snively Elementary School - Johnna Bryant

Polk Avenue Elementary School - Melissa Kelly

  • Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community or school awareness campaigns and on-site workshops. Last year’s Splash! grants brought water resources education to 5,478 students throughout the District. For more information, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SchoolGrants.

Check your irrigation timer as we ‘fall back’ to standard time

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents to check the timers on their irrigation system controllers this weekend, which is the end of daylight saving time.

Saturday night is when we will turn our clocks back one hour. The time change is also a good time to make sure irrigation system timers are set correctly to ensure that the systems operate consistently with year-round water conservation measures.

All 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries are on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties and the City of Dunedin.

Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass:

  • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
  • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
  • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

Walking Club: Exploring Lakeland’s Se7en Wetlands

Many of us are looking for ways to be active while also staying socially distanced from others. That is why Sarah Phinney started a ‘Walking Club’ to highlight some hidden, and some not so hidden, trails across the Tampa Bay area that are great places for you and your family to check out.

Se7en Wetlands is the newest City of Lakeland park. It is unlike any other place we visited so far on Walking Club. The former phosphate mining site is now a constructed treatment wetland. It opened to the public in 2018. You can now enjoy miles of trails with beautiful views of lakes, swamps and marshes. Here is what you need to know before you try it out.

What’s the backstory?

The history of Se7en Wetlands dates back a century. It was a phosphate mine beginning in the 1920s. Operations ceased in the early 1980s. The City of Lakeland purchased the land in 1985 to turn it into a constructed treatment wetland. It essentially provides final polishing for all of the City’s wastewater.

USGS unveils National Water Dashboard (NWD)

The U.S. Geological Survey announced Friday the completion of a new mobile tool that provides real-time information on water levels, weather and flood forecasts all in one place on a computer, smartphone or other mobile device.

The new USGS National Water Dashboard, or NWD, provides critical information to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public during flood events, informing decisions that can help protect lives and property.

“The National Water Dashboard is a much-needed advancement that will help keep communities across the country safe during extreme weather conditions,” said Tim Petty, Ph.D., Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, from an agricultural round table with the Water Subcabinet in Janesville, Wisconsin. “The development of a comprehensive tool that can provide real-time, critical information on mobile devices is great news for areas in our country that are prone to flooding or drought. In addition to giving the public key information on what’s happening in their communities, it will also help improve the response of federal, state and local agencies during storms, floods and drought conditions.”

“Our vision is the National Water Dashboard will be a one-stop resource for all available USGS water data used by the public to make decisions that can preserve life and property,” said Jim Reilly, Ph.D., director of the USGS. “The USGS will continue to build out this tool incorporating future advances in water information so the public will have the latest and best information on hazards and resources.”

Information from the NWD will help inform forecasting, response and recovery efforts for agencies such as the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal, state and local agencies. The tool can be used by forecasters and local emergency managers as they issue flood- and evacuation warnings, verify safe evacuation routes and coordinate emergency response efforts. The NWD can assist the USACE as they manage water supplies in river basins and operate flood-control reservoirs. During a drought, the tool can help state resource managers identify areas where water supplies are at risk.

“The National Water Dashboard is an exceptional tool for staying up to date on real-time USGS water information coupled with forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “Giving individuals access to water information whether it be a flood or drought, on their mobile device, will help protect lives and property."

The NWD presents real-time stream, lake and reservoir, precipitation and groundwater data from more than 13,500 USGS observation stations across the country. This information is shown along with NOAA weather data such as radar, watches and warnings, past precipitation totals, precipitation forecasts and drought conditions from other open water-data sources. The NWD also links to the USGS WaterAlert system, which sends out instant, customized updates about water conditions.

"The National Water Dashboard builds on the USGS Texas Water Dashboard that was created in 2016," said Don Cline, Ph.D, USGS Associate Director for Water Resources. "Expanding this tool nationwide will increase the ease and ability for the public to have access to USGS real-time water data at all times to help make informed decisions regarding the safety of their families and homes."

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers values the continued partnership and active engagement within our Federal family,” said Chandra S Pathak, Policy Advisor and Senior Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering and Construction Division. “The new USGS National Water Dashboard is well suited to support the ever-evolving needs for increased hazard risk awareness and mitigation actions toward preparedness and response."