Lake O water levels down following driest March in several decades

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Aerial footage of Lake Okeechobee on Aug. 13, 2018
Aerial footage of Lake Okeechobee on Aug. 13, 2018. Credit: WINK News.

Lake Okeechobee’s water levels are down following the driest March in the past several decades.

So what does that mean for our water supply?

“We’re nervous because March was one of the driest months we’ve seen, I think ever,” said SFWMD governing board chairman, Chauncey Goss.

As the dry season continues, the water level in Lake O has lowered to now under 12 feet.

“A lot of people use Lake Okeechobee as a drinking water supply,” Goss said, as well as for irrigation, groundwater supply and releases to the Caloosahatchee.

“We get way too much water in the summer, we don’t get enough in the dry season and it really damages this ecosystem,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani.

He says the freshwater drives down salinity in the Caloosahatchee. “So that the plants can survive and the animals that depend on them will still be around,” he said.

Another concern still around? Harmful algal blooms.

“We found out in 2018 that this blue-green algae can tolerate salt contents…so we’re not restricting blue-green algae by having the higher salinity at this time,” Cassani said.

As for south of the lake, Capt. Daniel Andrews, executive director for Captains of Clean Water, says, “The biggest victim of the current drought is the Everglades and Florida Bay. They’re not getting the water that they need.”

That’s why groups like his want storage south—to make sure there’s water during the dry and wet seasons.

“Our water crisis is something that’s negatively impacted us,” Andrews said. “Let’s focus on the things we can do and react to them in the same way that we’re reacting to the coronavirus so that we can avoid another terrible catastrophe.”

For Floridians, nature and our water.

The South Florida Water Management District recommends only watering twice a week between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Some areas also have other water restrictions in place, so check before you turn on those sprinklers!

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