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9.5-Inch Rain Deficit at Year’s End, Falling Aquifer: Hydrologic Summary for July-December

| January 6, 2011

Sunset over the St. Johns River (© Erion)

Every six months, by Florida law, the state’s water management districts must produce a report on water conditions in the region. Flagler County is part of the 18-county St. Johns River Water Management District, whose latest hydrological report was just released, covering the months of July through December 2010.

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s (District’s) Division of Hydrologic Data Services (HDS) collects hydrologic and meteorologic data to measure changes in surface water levels, aquifer levels and monthly rainfall totals. HDS operates and maintains more than 1,000 monitoring stations throughout the 18-county District and processes data from approximately 200 additional sites collected by other agencies. More than 16 million measurements are collected, verified, processed and stored by program staff each year.

Hydrologic and meteorologic data are used for water use planning and management, environmental protection and restoration, and flood control purposes. HDS also compiles a monthly Hydrologic Conditions Report and provides it to the District’s Governing Board each month. A summary of the major hydrologic constituents that are monitored follows.

Below are the District’s average monthly rainfall summaries:

  • July 2010 — Rainfall for the month of July was 4.88 inches. The District began the second half of 2010 with near average levels, with a year-to-date (YTD) deficit of only 0.03 inches.
  • August 2010 — Rainfall was 6.25 inches, with a YTD total of 34.62 inches. The YTD deficit increased to 0.76 inches.
  • September 2010 — Rainfall was 3.87 inches, with a YTD total of 38.48 inches and a YTD deficit of 3.64 inches.
  • October 2010 — Rainfall was 0.31 inches, with a YTD total of 38.8 inches. The YTD deficit doubled to 7.33 inches.
  • November 2010 — Rainfall was 1.6 inches, with a YTD total of 40.39 inches. The YTD deficit was 7.79 inches.
  • December 2010 — Rainfall was 0.81 inches, with a YTD total of 41.2 inches, and a calendar year deficit of 9.52 inches.

The development of dry La Niña conditions, which started in April, resulted in a significant rainfall deficit in many areas of the District. Rainfall amounts for 2010 were not evenly distributed across the District. Coastal areas of Nassau and Duval counties, and most of St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties and the District’s portion of Alachua County had deficits in excess of 10 inches for the year. Isolated portions of Volusia, Brevard and Indian River counties also carried rainfall deficits for the year of more than 10 inches.

Surface Water

Stream flow and water levels at major, long-term gauging stations and lakes began the period at or just above average levels, with the exception of the Ocklawaha River stations. The Ocklawaha River began July higher than normal for the season because of late June rains in its upper reaches.

Stream flow conditions in the upper St. Johns River basin received a small increase in flow in late July due to Tropical Storm Bonnie, and a larger increase in late September as result of the passage of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. However, the general trend on the St. Johns River, particularly in its middle and lower basins, was downward throughout the second half of 2010. The St. Johns River near DeLand ended the year just below the 30th percentile, but all other monitoring stations were below the 25th percentile, with several stations — including those at Christmas, near Cocoa, and above Lake Harney — below the 10th percentile. Although the Ocklawaha River and its tributaries started July near the 75th percentile and peaked again in late September, most monitoring stations in that basin also ended the year below the 30th percentile, and long-term stations at Eureka and near Conner were below the 10th percentile.

In addition to the generalized information referenced above, the District produces detailed, controlled water level information for selected areas of the Upper St. Johns River and Ocklawaha River basins. The reports are:

  • Weekly Upper Ocklawaha River Basin Water Conditions Report
  • Weekly Upper St. Johns River Basin Project Water Conditions Report
  • Daily Upper Ocklawaha River Basin Water Control Report
  • Daily Upper St. Johns River Basin Project Water Control Report

The District also produces a Keystone Heights–area hydrologic conditions report.


The District maintains a groundwater resource assessment program through the Division of Groundwater Programs. The resource assessment group performs detailed hydrologic investigations, designs and evaluates monitoring networks, and conducts interpretive investigations. The field services group constructs and maintains monitoring wells, oversees contractual drilling services, conducts aquifer performance tests and related hydrologic testing, and provides geophysical logging services. This program directly supports the water supply planning, the consumptive use permitting and the minimum flows and levels programs, as well as other District programs. The assessment program also provides the means to evaluate the groundwater resources, identify long–term trends, detect potential problem areas, and develop appropriate resource management strategies.

The major focus of the groundwater program is the Floridan aquifer, which is the major source of potable (drinking) water throughout the District. Groundwater levels in wells open to the Floridan aquifer began the period at the 55th percentile and steadily declined through December to below the 30th percentile as a result of the dry La Niña conditions during the late summer and autumn months.

Water Conservation

On Aug. 10, 2010, the Governing Board approved nearly $6 million in cost-share funding for reuse projects in St. Johns and Clay counties, which would represent a District investment of $59 million since 2006. The St. Johns County Utility Department (SJCUD) will construct a new, state-of-the art advanced wastewater treatment plant designed to provide 3 million gallons per day (mgd) of reclaimed water and the project would help SJCUD achieve its “zero-effluent discharge” goal from its northwest facility.

The Clay County project involves the District continuing to assist Clay County Utility Authority (CCUA) in funding construction of an interconnection of CCUA’s northern reclaimed water service area to its southern service area. The project will meet the current reclaimed water demand of 0.75 to 1 mgd and will support reclaimed water demand within CCUA’s southern service area.

On Aug. 12, 2010, the Board also approved $1.45 million in cost-share funding for water conservation projects that implement innovative water conservation initiatives. The 12 cost-share award recipients approved for funding were the cities of DeLand, Jacksonville, Fruitland Park, Groveland, Palatka, Palm Coast and Port Orange; the town of Penney Farms; Alachua, St. Johns and Volusia counties; and JEA.

The types of projects funded included:

  • Reliability and performance testing of soil moisture sensors and smart irrigation controllers
  • Water use data gathering, tracking and analysis to improve effectiveness in water conservation efforts
  • Construction and installation of rainwater harvesting systems
  • Enforcement of landscape irrigation ordinances and related education efforts

These awards mark the second round of cost-share projects funded through the District’s Water Conservation Cost-Share Program in 2010. The first round of funding was announced in April 2010 and provided $2.5 million to 13 projects. With both rounds of funding combined, the District designated up to $3.59 million to water conservation cost-share projects in 2010.

In December, the application cycle for the Water Conservation Cost-Share Program reopened. Approximately $3.8 million is available for this funding cycle, and no maximum award value has been set for individual projects.

Nov. 7, 2010, marked the change from daylight saving time to Eastern Standard Time, and District watering restrictions changed from up to two days per week of lawn watering on designated days to no more than one day per week on designated days. The restrictions specify the days for residential and nonresidential irrigation. On March 14, 2011, landscape irrigation will switch back to two days per week.

The District encourages local governments to adopt irrigation ordinances that fully implement the District’s landscape irrigation rule, and 54 of the 118 local governments within the District have enacted ordinances. A model ordinance is available to assist local governments.

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1 Response for “9.5-Inch Rain Deficit at Year’s End, Falling Aquifer: Hydrologic Summary for July-December”

  1. Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

    It would seem, that with the publishing of these results, we will be bombarded by the City of Palm Coast, to get moving quicker on the desalination project. But I do need to ask, are the waste water plants in Palm Coast, equipped to handle the new technology, referenced in the article, to reduce the discharge to zero effluent . Right now, for every 1,000 gallons of water usage in Palm Coast, 70% of the water is returned and processed through the waste water plants. Is this 70% used to in the calculations, to reduce our water needs ? Perhaps government should be required by law, just like the Insurance Industry with life and health policies, to reduce their results to “easy read” so I don’t need a dictionary to understand the results and just what it means to us, average water users.

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