The South Florida Water Management District’s governing board approved a water shortage order this morning that puts counties on alert that mandatory cutbacks may be necessary.
About 34 percent of Florida is now in a severe drought with an additional 35 percent either in moderate drought or abnormally dry.
Pete Kwiatkowski, director of the district’s resource evaluation division, said a lack of rain has depleted groundwater supplies so much that some wells are near record low levels.
“Because it’s been so dry and water demands are increasing for irrigation, it’s a double whammy,” Kwiatkowski said. “We can see conditions decline pretty quickly.”
The order advises people to comply with year-round landscape irrigation rules and increase voluntary water conservation measures. It also means the district will increase in communication with local governments and the public about potential water shortages.
“We are obviously going to need some more rain and it will start raining,” said John Mitnik, the district’s chief engineer. “It’s just a question of when and how much it’s going to rain.”
A report released this morning by the National Drought Mitigation Center shows that while Palm Beach County’s drought has improved, a substantial amount of the center and southwest part of the state has worsened.
In Palm Beach County, 63 percent of the are is considered “abnormally dry”, with 26 percent in a “moderate drought” and 11 percent in severe drought. The driest areas in the county are in the far west on the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee.
The report comes as Florida is under a state of emergency because of dozens of wildfires burning throughout the state.
As of Wednesday, there were 92 active wildfires in Florida with 23 burning more than 100 acres.
About 70,695 acres has burned in Florida since Jan. 1.
The map, and state numbers, don’t include fires burning on federal land. A fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve north of Interstate 75 has burned 16,000 acres.
A fire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida-Georgia line is also burning.