Live Oak — Groundwater levels in most regions within the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) have rebounded following record rainfall, courtesy of tropical storms Beryl and Debby. But the eastern and extreme southern portions of the District are still experiencing low and extremely low groundwater levels, and many counties still have 12-month rainfall deficits of as much as 15-20 inches.
“There were significant improvements in many areas of the District and those improvements are on-going,” said Megan Wetherington, District senior professional engineer. “Other areas did not recover greatly due to the severity of the drought.”
Consequently, District Executive Director Ann Shortelle said it is premature for the District to lift a water shortage order that was declared just weeks before the arrival of the tropical storms and which remains in effect through Sept. 30.
“We certainly understand that in our flooded counties, water conservation may be the furthest thing from most people’s minds,” said Shortelle. “But in other regions of the District groundwater levels remain low and we should all remember that water conservation is vital to protecting our water resources.”
District staff will continue to monitor conditions until longer-term effects of the tropical storms are evaluated and then will make recommendations regarding continuation of the water shortage accordingly, said Shortelle.
Tropical Storm Debby brought up to 26 inches in three days. Average rainfall in the District in June was 18.37 inches, the highest monthly average on record. In the 36 days between May 26 and June 30 – the time period of Tropical Storms Beryl and Debby – a portion of Suwannee and Lafayette counties received up to 48 inches, almost a typical year’s amount of rain.
The majority of rainfall fell in the central areas of the District. Portions of Suwannee, Columbia, and Lafayette counties received up to 33 inches in June. The coastal and outlying areas in the District received as little as 9 inches for the month.
Some areas on the Upper Suwannee River and many lakes and tributaries of the Santa Fe River experienced major flooding. The Suwannee River at White Springs rose 32 feet in two days, cresting at almost 85.3 feet. The Suwannee River at Suwannee Springs crested at almost 70.3 feet. The New River near Lake Butler and the Santa Fe River at Worthington Springs crested with the highest stage since 1992 and both exceeded the 10 percent flood. The Santa Fe at O’Leno State Park crested higher than any recorded flood since 1980.
By the end of June, levels in all but two District monitor wells had risen. Wells near the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers rose to their highest levels since previous floods. Eighteen percent of monitor wells were above normal, 34 percent were normal, 13 percent were below normal, and 34 percent were in the lowest 10 percent of records.
The three-month outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center calls for above-normal precipitation and temperatures through September.
The District’s June hydrologic conditions report is available at http://www.srwmd.state.fl.us/archives/35/June2012_TSDebby_Hydroconditions_Report.pdf