South Florida starting 2011 much-much drier than normal

A drought watch condition exists in the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) 18-county area — although not yet stated as such. This clip is from:

Because 2010 rainfall amounts were far below average, ground (wellfields and aquifers) and surface (lakes, rivers and canals) water levels are low. Long-term weather forecasts for 2011 envision continuing below-average rainfall leading to great strains on water supplies. With at least five months of the dry season still ahead, water conservation is increasingly critical. (More)

3/10/2010 – Year-Round Water Conservation Begins Today In South Florida (PDF) (Excerpts)
“The move from emergency landscape irrigation restrictions to year-round water conservation measures marks a historic turning point for South Florida,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. “Water conservation in our region can no longer be a reaction to short-term adversity. Conservation has become a proactive strategy to protect water resources for the long-term benefit of our environment and our communities.”

The decision by the SFWMD Governing Board to end emergency landscape irrigation restrictions on March 15 reflects improved water conditions since the end of the record 2008-2009 dry season. The El Niño weather pattern has brought above average rainfall during the current dry season, and groundwater levels throughout most of the District are normal or above normal for this time of year.

During the 2009-2010 dry season, the District has already received more than double the rainfall compared to last year’s dry season, which was the driest six-month period in South Florida history based on records dating back to 1932. The water level in Lake Okeechobee is nearly a foot higher than it was at this time last year.

Although some residents and businesses may irrigate three days a week under the new measures, two-day-a-week irrigation is often more than enough for South Florida lawns and landscapes, which typically need only three-quarters to an inch of water a week. Irrigation may not even be necessary if sufficient rain falls during the week.

Also see:

Lake Okeechobe Stage-Area Lookup (LOSAC):