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Watering restrictions in place in city, across the region

By Staff | Apr 28, 2020

While residents around South-west Florida battle the coronavirus, water levels in the region have become seriously low due to drought-like conditions created by warm temperatures and a lack of rain.

Due to those issues, the South Florida Water Management District issued irrigation restrictions that went into effect on Saturday, limiting resident’s irrigation use to one day per week until circumstances improve.

Compliance with these regulations is vital in protecting aquifers in the county that provide drinking water. This dry season has resulted in decreased groundwater levels in these aquifers.

There are also new limitations for nurseries, golf courses, agriculture and recreational users.

“It’s important to follow the SFWMD’s Water Shortage Order so that the sources of water affected by this order can make it through the dry season and into the rainy season,” said Cape Coral Utilities Director Jeff Pearson.

In Cape Coral, watering is only allowed on a specific day of the week based on the last number of your address. It is only allowed during one of two, 4-hour slots; midnight to 4 a.m. or 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., also based on address (see article graphic for your time slot).

Pearson said while canal levels are low, the city, on Thursday, began pumping water into U.S. 41 swales to “rehydrate” the city’s freshwater canals, which he said also serve as a stormwater conveyance system.

“The canal levels are low, but are slowly rising as a result of the temporary pumping project and the rainfall over the weekend beginning Friday,” Pearson said.

The city is pumping this water from a reservoir property at Southwest Aggregates in South Charlotte County.

The Cape will pump up to 17 million gallons per day until the beginning of the rainy season, according to Pearson.

According to SFWMD, from Sept. 2019 through March 2020, Florida’s southwest coast saw a total of only 14.72 inches of rainfall, or 66 percent of the average (-7.64 inches). In March, the southwest coast saw a total of only 0.27 inches, or 12 percent of the average.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report on April 14 indicated Lee County remains in “Moderate Drought.”

Monitoring stations across Lee County over the last few weeks have seen a continued decline in groundwater levels. Current conditions of dry heat are expected to stay for the remainder of the dry season, which typically concludes at the end of May.

“Rainfall has been well below average from November of 2019 to March of this year. This reservoir project will provide the City with a freshwater source to supplement irrigation supply for our community,” said Pearson in a release on the pumping project. “We are pleased with how the various regulatory agencies came together to assist the City in securing the necessary permits required to move this project forward.”

According to the city, the water from the reservoir will flow south into the Gator Slough canal, then pumped via canal pump stations into the irrigation system to help maintain adequate pressure for irrigation and fire protection services.

SFWMD reminds residents across the county that they do not have to worry about water levels when it comes to washing their hands.

“Frequent hand washing uses very little water. Residents are encouraged to continue frequent hand washing. There are no restrictions on water use to respond to COVID-19,” states a release from SFWMD.

In collaboration with Lee County and local officials, the SFWMD will continue to closely monitor water conditions.

Residents with questions about the irrigation restrictions can visit www.SFWMD.gov/Conserve, email shortage@sfwmd.gov, or leave a message on the Citizen Information Line at 1-800-662-8876, extension 9.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj