PALATKA, Fla. – A trend of below-average rainfall across parts of northeast and central Florida has prompted officials to issue a water shortage warning, asking residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce water use.
The St. Johns River Water Management District's governing board said there is heightened focus for the water shortage warning in the portions of Nassau, Flagler, Baker, Clay, Putnam, Marion and Lake counties located within the district.
The drought in those areas is putting pressure on already low water levels and could lead to an active wildfire season.
Officials are asking people in those areas to cut back on irrigation. That means using sprinklers less on yards and golf courses.
IMAGES: Rainfall shortage shrinks ponds
Rules are already in place that regulate watering on an odd-even address basis, and most watering is banned between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is when water quickly evaporates.
“In the heat of the day, you're just going to burn up your plants,” gardener Richard Heintz said.
Because it's currently daylight saving time, homes with odd-numbered addresses or no addresses can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays; homes with even-numbered addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays; and nonresidential properties can water on Tuesdays and Fridays. In addition to watering only as needed before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., residents and businesses should water for no more than one hour per zone of their property.
Many people News4Jax spoke to Wednesday said they were not aware of watering restrictions.
Heintz said most yards only need to be watered once a week.
He admitted the dry conditions are concerning. Some ponds in Mandarin and Julington Creek are dried up or at low levels.
"It kind of worries you a little bit,” Heintz said.
Over the past year, rainfall totals have been more than 9 inches below average in Northeast Florida. Officials said conditions are not yet bad enough to expect that there won't be enough water to meet demands and protect water resources, but they want to increase awareness now of the possibility of a prolonged drought.
Rainfall during 2017 has been below average through mid-March, with future predictions for similar rainfall trends.
Examples of rainfall totals and trends from a report presented to the district's governing board in March included:
- Over the last 12 months, rainfall remained below average, with a districtwide deficit of 9.1 inches.
- Baker, Flagler, Nassau, Marion, Putnam and Alachua counties all have 12-month deficits greater than 10 inches.
- In February, Duval, Osceola and Indian River counties experienced rainfall of 1.3 inches below average.
County-by-county precipitation reports and other data are available online at http://www.sjrwmd.com/hydroconditionsreport.