Tropical Storm Emily could bring the extended soaking water managers say is needed to lift South Florida out of a lingering drought.
July’s rains provided a welcome boost to South Florida water supplies suffering from the driest October-to-June stretch on record.
That drought, combined with past water management decisions, have strained drinking water supplies and dried out vital wildlife habitat from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
While lawns may be green again thanks to the beginning of the summer rainy season, underground freshwater supplies that provide most of South Florida’s drinking water remain below normal in key areas.
Lake Okeechobee – South Florida’s primary backup water supply – is still 3 feet below normal.
Also, southern portions of the Everglades water conservation areas – which stretch across western Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties – are lower than normal.
The South Florida Water Management District has warned that without above normal rainfall this summer, the region could stay stuck in a continued water supply shortage leading into the next winter-to-spring dry season.
"It hasn’t improved enough (to) say the coast is clear," said Pete Kwiatkowski, district water-shortage incident commander. "We still need the rest of the wet season to get us to a level where we can coast through (the next) dry season."
A drenching tropical storm lingering over or near South Florida could provide the high volume water boost the region needs, according to the water management district.
Storm projections Tuesday showed Tropical Storm Emily passing over or east of South Florida by Saturday.
If the storm does come this way, the district may start dumping more water from drainage canals out to sea, despite ongoing water supply needs. The canals would have to be lowered to have the capacity needed to avoid – or at least lessen – the flooding Tropical Storm Emily could bring, according to the district.
Lack of water storage space combined with guarding against flooding of farms and towns built on what used to be the Everglades can lead to dumping billions of gallons of water out to sea each week, even amid a drought.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun