Northwest Florida Water Management District covers a 14 county area including Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson (western half), Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla, Walton & Washington counties.

water table

Steephead Valleys
And why they are "spring like"

Steephead valleys aren’t as famous …

Or as charismatic as a Florida spring.

Steephead valleys have a distinctive rounded shape

But they are similar in they are both groundwater fed. Unlike springs that appear in full force out of nowhere, emerging from a cavernous hold in the ground in the form of a “boil,” steephead streams are smaller in scale and at their upstream end pinch back to a vanishing point. And unlike a gully-eroded dendritic (i.e. branching) stream channel that depends on rainwater for its source, and accordingly erodes from top-to-bottom — a steephead valley contains a single stream that depends on groundwater seepage as its source. Grain by grain, that causes erosion to occur from the bottom-up, giving the ravines their trademark rounded and slumping shape. Another key difference: The gradient between its headwater and mouth are low.

What makes steepheads special? The steady flow and constant (cooler) temperature makes both the ravines and the streams home to endemic and rare northern plants. An endangered fish called the Okaloosa darter is only found in steephead streams. As for their location, they are found in isolated patches in the panhandle where the regional groundwater table and alluvial floodplain intercept.

Water wars

Water dispute among friends

There’s nothing better than a good map …

Except for maybe a good hydrograph.

A map of the the river system

Even better is combining the two together.

Above is the map of the basin that feeds freshwater to Apalachicola Bay. As you can see, it’s three major rivers and reaches all the way up to Atlanta. More than a dot on the map, what’s known as the Metropolitan Area sprawls across a large area, and yes, it depends on drinking water stored behind Buford Dam in Lake Lanier.

Variation in Georgia’s Lake Lanier Stage over the years

A run of drought in the 2000s (shown above) severally stressed the water situation in the basin among stakeholders, with Atlanta’s water supply and minimum flows (5,000 cfs) to Florida’s Apalachicola Bay staking out hydrologic and legal ground on their fair shake of the water.

More recently (below) drought has eased.

Hydrograph comparing stage in Lake Lanier, discharge from Woodruff Dam (Lake Seminole) and annual “dam-released” discharge to Apalachicola Bay

Usually you think of “Water Wars” between states as something that only happens Out West, but right here in Florida we have a long-running and still-simmering “Tri-State Water Dispute.” I won’t call it a war because we’re also friends.

I also have a theory that good hydrographs promote peace.