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Summer drought brings more attention to Lake Okeechobee water management

West Palm Beach pushes for more state control over lake's waters
Posted at 4:46 PM, Sep 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 18:02:35-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Rainy afternoons are usually a part of summer life in South Florida, but a lack of wet days can be worrisome for the reservoirs that West Palm Beach relies on.

It's why the city has been locked in a struggle over Lake Okeechobee's water.

No one seemed happier than Armando Fana, the assistant city administrator of West Palm Beach, to see the increase in rainfall this week.

"It's been a dry summer, so it's great to see some rain come down," Fana said.

Armando Fana, the assistant city administrator of West Palm Beach, speaks on drought, Sept. 15, 2022
Armando Fana discusses how the summer drought has impacted West Palm Beach.

Fana said the rain will help the city's reservoirs and water supply.

"When we don't get that rain, it's a problem," Fana said.

And it's been a summer without much rain.

The U.S. drought monitor has South Florida and the Treasure Coast either in the abnormally dry range or in moderate drought. Officials said this was the third driest August on record for our area.

It's years like this that has the city pushing for more state control over Lake Okeechobee's waters, which is the city's backup supply for drinking water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is nearing a final management plan, which has been supported strongly by environmentalists. It calls for more water from Lake Okeechobee to go south, enriching the Everglades and cutting down on algae releases into waterways.

U.S. Drought Monitor, Sept. 15, 2022
The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that southeast Florida and the Treasure Coast are abnormally dry or in a moderate drought.

Last month the Friends of the Everglades sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, calling the new plan well-balanced management that strives to protect the public health and environment.

But West Palm Beach officials said their water needs also need to be a priority.

"Lake Okeechobee is a big supplier of our water," Fana said. "We need certainty to not have a guessing game as to what kind of water levels we will have particularly in drought situations."

Fana said the city has also been in communication with the Army Corps about getting water releases from Lake Okeechobee.

It's a tough position trying to strike a balance to restore the Everglades, cut down on algae and keep the taps runnings.

In the meantime, there is still hope South Florida’s rainy season will deliver more water in the coming weeks.