Florida is divided into 5 water management districts with four core missions: (1) water supply, (2) water quality, (3) flood protection and floodplain management, and (4) natural systems. | Florida’s water districts | Panhandle | Suwannee | St Johns | Southwest | South Florida | Estuaries and coast | Water bodies | Aquifers

Intro - Political Water

By Robert V. Sobczak

People always say:

Keep the politics out of water.

Water needs political support

And truly, water is the one topic that transcends political affiliation. "Water has and always will be on humanity's agenda," to paraphrase Linda Llampl, long-time science communicator and close confident. So let's face the facts: Good governance requires thoughtful and proactive management of our cherished water resources. The larger trend: We react, and often too late.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, but to divorce water from politics is pure folly. Water has to be front and center in the political agenda. What's the saying: "Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting?" Well, we don't know the true value of water until we try to drink a cup of liquid gold. Okay, I mangled the last proverb. But you get my point. Water needs to be front and center on all our agendas, and most of all on the political front, and not hollow platitudes either. We need true water properly represented at the table -- in a way that empowers true solutions, not empty promises and not false hope.

Best Water Management Logo in Florida?
And the winner is (drum roll please) ...

You don’t know how difficult logos can be …

Until you try to make one yourself.

Florida’s five districts, plus the agency that unites them all

And now imagine having to make one that measures up to four other like organizations, and also resonates with the greater public interest it serves. Such is the challenge for Florida’s five water management districts. Water management logos are a lot like state flags. They contain subtleties and historical nuances that only an student of the genre or a long time local could fully understand. And I would imagine that each logo has evolved over the years. For all I know, as I type, one of the districts may be tweaking (or completely reinventing) its design. If I had to guess, I would say that the Suwannee’s is the most recently modified, in part because it’s such a departure from the rest — it doesn’t have a state map and in general is more minimalistic than the rest.

Things I like about each one: (1) for Northwest Florida it’s the grove of cypress and stand of long-leaf pine, (2) the Suwannee is its simplicity (and clarity) of color and words, (3) the St Johns River has a decidedly nautical feel, which probably makes sense given how far inland (161 miles from its mouth), (4) for Southwest Florida it has to be the background waves of the gulf, and how it reaffirms that the entire basin feeds the downstream estuaries, and (5) for south Florida is has to be the sun rays reaching out into an expansive yet cloudless sky (I can only assume the river is the Kissimmee).

Last but not least is the sixth: the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It has general oversight over all five districts. As for which logo is the best, I think they are all interesting in their own ways. Which one I like best might depend on the day, or what district I live.

Aren’t our watersheds a little bit like sports teams? They bring us together as a community to root for the same cause and rally around the same logo. What’s your favorite logo, and why?

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Chronology: The South Florida Water Management District is the oldest of the five, forming in 1949, with the others following in 1977 as a result of the Water Resources Act signed into law by the Florida legislature in 1972.

Water manager’s delight
How much is "too much?"

For years I’ve struggled …

To make the perfect hydrograph.

Everglades Water Depth Cheat Sheet

My conclusion: It isn’t possible. Every time I finish one, I’m making another. And then when I go back to the one that I thought was a masterpiece, I see room for improvement in how it’s presented. And of course, the data stream has updated. That’s the thing about the water cycle — new data is constantly coming in. It’s just downright hard to keep up. Then there’s always the battle of how much data is “too much?” In my view, the better it’s organized, the more you can back in. The Everglades Water Depth Cheat Sheet may just be the case in point.

About the cheat sheet: It’s my new masterpiece. It took me half a day (up to lunch to create). If that seems like a long time, consider that updating will take just seconds (or rather minutes). So the good news is that it was time well spent.

The deeper truth behind the hydrograph above is that it was 15 years in the making and was fueled by my desire to better understand the Everglades. The key step was charting water depth consistently at each index well using the “slough floor” as the zero reference and using the simple ecological cross section at the top right of the page. As for the historical stats, I calculated them from 1993 to present.

More about the cheat sheet: It’s power is that it allows you to compare apples-to-apples (or oranges-to-oranges as we say in Florida) across the major index wells of the River of Grass; and also go back in time a decade at each site.

I always say I am trying to bring Go Hydrology back to some semblance of its former glory. Looking at this chart, at least on this night, my thought is that I might just get there yet.

Headwater lake?

Yes, Lake Okeechobee holds more water …

But Lake Trafford is 5 feet higher.

Map of Deep Lake, Lake Trafford and Lake Okeechobee. Can you see Lake Istokpoga, too?

Don’t expect either one …

to overflow their banks any time soon.

Twin Hydrograph comparing lake stage for Okeechobee (left) and Trafford (right)

But prior to drainage, both spilled south: Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades and Lake Trafford into Camp Keais Strand and Corkscrew Swamp.