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Water Years 2021/2022 in Review
A brief comparison of the past two years

1. Water Year 2021 (May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021)

Water Year 2021 classified as above average in terms or rainfall, recording 46 and 14 inches of wet and dry season rainfall, respectively, for a total of 60 inches.  The summer wet season started early with a June-like rain total in May (8 inches) and ended late with above average rains in October and a surprise storm in November.  Of note, the early start was not enough, or rather in time, to prevent a destructive incineration of an archipelago of hardwood hammocks in the southeast Corner of Big Cypress National Preserve called the Moon Fish Wildfire.  Within a week of the fire ending the May rains swept through.  Near normal rainfall persisted for core four months of the summer wet season (June through September) and were supplemented by a “wet season” like October.  But the real exclamation point came in November in the form of Tropical Storm Eta, filling the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp to levels last seen in September 2017 from Hurricane Irma, only shifted forward two months to a time when water levels are usually well past their October peak. 

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The late season highwater stand set the stage for or prolonged and steady winter recession that proved to be a boon to wading bird communities in terms of foraging and nesting.  Despite expectations of a wet dry season from the bumper crop of summer and late fall rain, the Big Cypress Swamp dropped into deep drought by April’s end.  Although no similar wildfires occurred, Water Year 2021 proved an important restoration point:  No matter how wet the wet season or the beginning of the dry season, without timely April and May rains the Big Cypress Swamp is especially prone to dropping into deep, unnatural drought due to perimeter and interior canals that stifle the spread of sheet flow and hasten its spring demise. 

2. Water Year 2022 (May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022)

Despite the previous year’s bountiful rains, Water Year 2022 took started slow thank to subpar rains in May – extending drought conditions into June and even July in some area.  However, the four core seasons of the summer wet season (June through September) and October all charted in with average rainfall.  For a second year in a row, November provided an unexpected boost with twice its normal rainfall amount. Again, despite the surplus of water at the dry season’s start, the Big Cypress Swamp was poised to drop into deep spring drought, imperiling the habits that so vitally depend on natural fire breaks staying wet, when a string of continental fronts at the middle and end of April and start of May boosted the water table just when it needed it most.  South Florida received over 10 inches less annual rainfall and 4 inches less dry season rain than the prior year, but it is as much an issue of timing as it is the total amount. Water Year 2021 classified as low normal in terms or rainfall, recording 36 and 12 inches of wet and dry season rainfall, respectively, for an annual total of 48 inches. 

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Did You Know: Up north on the continent, the water year starts October 1st and ends September 30th in most areas.

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wet season

Mystery: Summer wet season’s botanical clue?
Hint: Think country mouse, city mouse

The start of fall is easy to see in the swamp: Look no farther than the needles of the cypress trees turning brown then falling off. But does the swamp have a similar botanical clue that signals the start of the summer wet season?

a. Pond apples start to ripen and fall

b. Gumbo Limbo’s bark peals

c. Royal Poinciana’s bright orange flowers

d. Sawgrass blooms begin to appear

e. Brazilian Pepper berries turn red

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Click “Read More” to find the answer: “Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable.” Overheard

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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.

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Origin of Go Hydrology?
And how it evolved over time

Everything has its origin story, and some things evolve over time. And yes, there is a lot of trial and error involved, and every once in a while doing a reboot.

Can you guess how Go Hydrology got its start?

a. as part of a multi-agency watershed team

b. a database hosted at Florida Gulf Coast University

c. a blog called The South Florida Watershed Journal

d. a desire to illuminate and celebrate the water cycle as it unfolds

e. all of the above

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Answer: Click “Read More” to find out

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How To: Survive a storm
Lessons learned from Hurricane Agnes

Early-season hurricanes are not the norm,

But they do happen from time to time.

If only they worked as good as they look

Agnes (June 1972) sticks out in my mind.

It goes in the record books as my first hydrologic memory, not as a Floridian – where it made landfall, but as a native Marylander where I was born, and where the storm passed through on its way up the Atlantic Coast.

I was only 3 years old at the time.

My mother and father judiciously had us take cover under ground, not for the reason we didn’t have shutters on our windows – we did, but because those shutters were fake!

We sheltered in the basement

The so called “ornamental shutters” were made of flimsy plastic, manufactured too narrow to cover the full width of glass, and – the final insult – drilled permanently into the wall siding. They looked great on a sunny day, but that was about the good of them!

But Marylanders are nothing if not innovative – and so we found shelter in the basement until the storm passed.