Full story …
Or partial keyhole view?

The calendar chart (top) is color coordinated with the diagram (bottom)

The beauty of this chart is it allows us to see the full water history of Big Cypress National Preserve. The caveat is that it’s only a single gage. And this may even be a bigger one: It doesn’t tell us how water changed in the run up to the preserve being formed, and especially after the Tamiami Trail in the 1930. The trail not only paved the way for connecting the two coasts, it also became the de facto backbone for draining the swamp. Fifty years later the Preserve was established, and that’s when our hydrologic record keeping begins, too.

The biggest trend in my eye from the graph above is the longer summer wet seasons. That’s not because we’re getting more rain, but because we’re doing a better job of spreading the water out. The biggest shift for the Preserve occurred in the early 1990s after Alligator Alley and Turner River Road were replumbed to divert less water. This summer’s taken a little longer to start up, in part thanks to a deeper than usual spring drought. But the bigger trend is that it’s wetter now than when the Preserve was established (in 1974) but not as wet as before the Tamiami Trail went in.

So it’s a partial story, but pretty interesting (and revealing).

Data is good.

Best (and worst) decade?
How high phosphorus undermined LORS

Lake Okeechobee’s regulation schedules (1950-2020)
Lake Okeechobee performance over same time period

The above two charts are good companion pieces for understanding the evolution of how Lake O has been managed over the years. In 2008, a new regulation scheduled called LORS was implemented to lower Lake stage while the Hoover Dike was being rehabilitated. In terms of stage alone, LORS was fabulously successful. High and low-water extremes were kept in check on par with the 1950s and 1960s. That success story was undermined by the worsening water quality in the pelagic part of the Lake. The Lake’s interior wetlands and coastal estuaries are both intolerant and easily harmed by the eutrophic water.

Read more

Pile of sheet flow

Every couple summers the Everglades gets really flooded.

And when it does, one spot is guaranteed to flood the deepest.

This chart shows a comparison of current water levels (thick blue line) to a month ago (thin blue line), a year ago (light blue line) and the long-term normal for early December (dotted red line). WCA3A is over 2 feet higher than its long-term December norm.

An on-going challenge of managing the Everglades is helping the giant sheet of water spread out instead of disproportionately piling up in one spot.

Old views, revised

If you get the water right …

You get the swamp right.

Water is still foundational for a healthy swamp

Water is the center of the universe …

Around which the entire ecosystem revolves, right?

But it takes both flood and fire to get the ecosystem right

More correctly stated:

The swamp is a flood and fire ecosystem in which every square inch of flora and fauna depend on a regular dosage of flood and fire.

So goes flood and fire, so goes the swamp.

Why the dry (and wet) season is wrong

At first glance, a wet and dry season would seem to imply …

That the swamp has just two states.

Hydrographs are helpful, but there is nothing
like the advanced cornbread model (shown above)
to really make the water cycle click

In place of these two opposing states,

Is actually an dynamic shift between varying degrees of wetness and dryness.

For example, we are currently in the part of the dry season that should be wet but is actually drier than usual thanks to the preceding wet season ending on a dry note.

(For further clarification see the chart above.)

Getting the water right

Getting the water right …

Isn’t about just getting the water right.

Water is a universal salve
for the swamp

It’s about all the other things that get right …

When we get the water right.

Give a swamp clean water and it does beautiful things.