Water Management District declares ‘Modified Phase 1 Water Shortage’ for Sarasota and other counties through July 1, 2024

Persistent drought conditions cited

This color-coded map shows hydrologic conditions in the counties governed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Image courtesy of the District

Because of the persistent drought and “increasing water supply concerns,” the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) voted on Nov. 14 to declare a Modified Phase I Water Shortage for Sarasota and Manatee counties from Nov. 21 through July 1, 2024, the District announced.

The restrictions apply not only to those counties, a news release pointed out, but also to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sumter counties; portions of Charlotte, Highlands and Lake counties; the City of Dunnellon and The Villages in Marion County; and the Gasparilla Island in Lee County.

“The District received lower than normal rainfall during its summer rainy season,” the release explained. As of Nov. 14, SWFWMD was reporting a 9.2-inch districtwide rainfall deficit, compared to the average 12-month total.

“In addition, water levels in the District’s water resources, such as aquifers, rivers and lakes, are beginning to decline,” the release noted.

“The Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order does not change allowable watering schedules for most counties,” the release added. However, it does prohibit ‘wasteful and unnecessary’ water use while “twice-per-week lawn watering schedules remain in effect except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments,” the release continued.

Residents are asked to check their irrigation systems to ensure that those are working properly, the release said. “This means testing and repairing broken pipes and leaks, and fixing damaged or tilted sprinkler heads.” Further, the District urges residents to check their irrigation timers to ensure the settings are correct and that rain sensors are working properly.

Moreover, as of Dec. 1, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties will be limited to once-per-week lawn watering, the release pointed out. “These additional restrictions are needed because Tampa Bay Water, which supplies water to most of the three-county area, was unable to completely refill the 15-billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir this summer due to the lower-than-normal rainfall,” the release explained.

Once-per-week lawn watering days and times are as follows, unless a city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect. (Sarasota, Citrus and Hernando counties and the Cities of Venice and Dunedin have local ordinances that remain on one-day-per-week schedules.):

If your address (house number) ends in …

  • 0 or 1, water only on Monday.
  • 2 or 3, water only on Tuesday.
  • 4 or 5, water only on Wednesday.
  • 6 or 7, water only on Thursday.
  • 8 or 9, or at a location without a discernible address, water only on Friday.

Unless a city or county already has stricter hours in effect, the release continued, owners of properties under 2 acres in size may water only before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

Additionally, unless a city or county already has stricter hours in effect, owners of properties comprising 2 acres or more may water only before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., the release added.

“Low-volume watering of plants and shrubs (micro-irrigation, soaker hoses, hand watering)” is allowed any day and at any time, the release said.

“The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District,” the release pointed out.

For additional information about the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order, visit the District’s website WaterMatters.org/Restrictions. For tips on conserving water, visit WaterMatters.org/Water101.

Hydrologic conditions tell the story

This SWFWMD chart provides rainfall data for the counties. Image courtesy Southwest Florida Water Management District

In its October report on hydrologic conditions in the counties it encompasses, SWFWMD noted that while “average rainfall totals were within the normal range in [its] northern counties,” they were below normal in the central and southern counties. Sarasota is in the southern portion of the District.

“The normal range for rainfall is defined by totals that fall on or between the 25th to 75th percentiles of the historical

monthly accumulation for each region and where the 50th percentile represents the historical mean,” the District explains. The “southern counties received an average of 1.18 inches of rainfall, equivalent to the 13th percentile of the historical October record,” the report pointed out, while the “northern counties received an average of 2.18 inches of rainfall, equivalent to the 49th percentile of the historical October record [and the] central counties received an average of 1.17 inches of rainfall, equivalent to the 21st percentile.”

For the 12 months from Nov. 1, 2022 through Oct. 31 of this year, the report continued, the average rainfall in all three sections of counties was classified as “drier than normal.” The southern counties, it said, “received an average of 42.53 inches of rainfall, equivalent to the 12th percentile.”

In October in Sarasota County, a chart showed, the average rainfall was 1.02 inches. That compares to the October historical average of 3.21 inches, the chart noted.

From January through October of this year, the chart said, Sarasota County’s cumulative rainfall was 31.71 inches. That figure compares to the historical cumulative rainfall of 48.69 inches for the same period. Thus, for the first 10 months of this year, the county’s rainfall average was nearly 17 inches below the historical level.

Moreover, the chart showed, the cumulative rainfall from Nov. 1, 2022 through Oct. 31 was 37.48 inches, which was down 15.12 inches, compared to the historical 12-month cumulative total of 52.60 inches.