written by: Tony Smejek•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 1/18/2011
The Everglades, also known as “The River of Grass", once covered around 11,000 square miles of land in south Florida. Constant monitoring of the Everglades precipitation levels is imperative for the regional environment.
slide 1 of 5
Precipitation in the Everglades
On average, the Everglades precipitation levels on an annual basis are 52.10 inches. The wetter season usually occurs in the summer months, whereas in the winter time, rain is less prevalent. Some sources say the most precipitation occurs in June, while others say it’s in August. The reason for that could depend upon the site where the precipitation readings were recorded.
The wet season occurs between the months of May to October and accounts for 76 percent of the total rainfall. Water flow towards the Everglades is mostly dependent on the precipitation falling in the area. Eighty-nine percent of this flow comes from direct rainfall and the remaining eleven percent from other areas.
slide 2 of 5
Drought Conditions Do Not Help
The problem is the lack of rainfall in the recent years. The Everglades precipitation levels have been lacking, and there is a considerable concern in south Florida. Drought-like conditions in south Florida and the Everglades are causing a serious water shortage. The wet season is dryer than normal, which makes conditions dangerous. Water levels have taken a nose dive at Lake Okeechobee, which is the main provider for Glades farmers. If it goes down even further, the agriculture in that area will suffer.
Water deficits could be justified around the World War II era, but there was less demand for it in that time period. Smaller populations means less demand. However, now that the population around the Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades had boomed, demands on water are great, so even slightest decreases in the precipitation levels impacts the area greatly. Unfortunately, it isn't so slight.
slide 3 of 5
How Human Intervention Caused a Disruption of the Everglades System
The quantity of water in the Everglades has decreased for two reasons. The area between the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee was cut off. Furthermore, the rainfall that occurred in the developed areas on the east coast used to flow southwest but has now been diverted to the Atlantic Ocean to the east because of developmental reasons.
In the past, the hydrologic environment of the Everglades could absorb an abundant amount of rainfall in the wet season and then allow an overflow of rainwater to flow gradually out of the area. In the dry season, it could retain the left-over water that had fallen during the wet season. However, in recent years, the dry seasons have gotten longer resulting in drought conditions, which make the Everglades system unable to retain water.
At one time, the Everglades system used to receive water from Lake Okeechobee by natural means when the lake overflowed at the south end and provided an ample supply of water to the system. However, human interaction and development such as building levees, dams, and canals caused an unnatural diversion of water that disrupts the environment in that region.
slide 4 of 5
What Is Being Done?
Developments to restore the Everglades system are underway. Efforts are currently being made to control the flow of water in a manner that doesn’t completely deprive the area of water retention.
The south Florida Water Management District has developed a computer model that takes recent rainfall data and virtually removes the canals and levees in order to demonstrate what the ecosystem would look like currently if there had been no human development. The purpose of such a model would be to target initial water requirements for the system.
People should not be complacent in their concerns for some things, like natural resources, and take them for granted. An abundant water supply is one of those major concerns.
This content will cover issues involving water quality. Such subjects that will be touched on will be effects on water quality by external influences, water quality improvement, data collection and research.