Better known as Florida’s panhandle, the NWFWMD is a showcase of sugar sand beaches, magical steep head valleys and the Apalachicola estuary. | Panhandle | Suwannee | St Johns | Southwest | South Florida | Estuaries and coast | Water bodies | Aquifers

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 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.

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Thought: Steepheads are larger versions of the little rivulets you see forming in the beachfront during a low tide, but less salty.

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.

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