Understanding the Water Conservation Areas, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This image shows the Everglades' three water conservation areas (WCAs) just under the storm water treatment areas (STAs) south of the EAA. (Image courtesy of (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html
In red, this image shows the Everglades’ three water conservation areas (WCAs) just south of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA.) (Image courtesy of (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html)

Yesterday, reviewing Everglades/IRL history, we learned about Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) that clean Lake Okeechobee water going to the Everglades; today we will take a look at their “older brother and sisters” the Water Conservation Areas ( WCAs),changed but remaining parts of the Everglades, that deliver water to Everglades National Park, and are protected as part of the Everglades themselves…

The Water Conservation Areas, the three large red images in the photo at the beginning of this blog post, comprise 900,000 acres. For reference, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is 700,000 acres. As we learned yesterday, the STAs were built in 1994; the WCAs are were  developed/created in 1948.

According to United States Geological Survey, (USGA,) the WCAs were developed as part of the (1948) Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project.

To me, this is ironic, as I consider the C&SF the nail in the coffin for Central and South Florida. (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)

It followed tremendous flooding  in 1947, and inspired the widening and deepening of the C-44, (St Lucie) C-43, (Caloosahatchee) canals, the building of C-23, C-24, C-25 in Martin and St Lucie Counties, as well as many, many, other projects around and south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp of Engineers did what they were charged to by the state and the US Congress, and as usual they did it “too well,” over draining the state with the continued destruction of the northern estuaries.  On top of that, today we waste on average 1.7 billion gallons of valuable water to tide every day. (Florida Oceanographic Society, Mark Perry.)

So anyway, the WCAs were also “created”during this time; they on the other hand are a good thing…

According to the USGA web site:

They were designed for use as storage to prevent flooding, to irrigate agriculture and recharge well fields and as input for agricultural and urban runoff. 

They are also recharged by rain, but leeves were built around the WCAs so water flows into them and then slowly streams into Everglades National Park by the hand of man, not Nature…

The USGA also states that:

Historic flow of water and the quality of water through the WCAs have been greatly reduced. These conditions have resulted in decreased wading bird populations due to shortened hydroperiods, invasion of the native environments by exotic plants and fish, and conversions of sawgrass communities to cattail/sawgrass mixes.

Recently, Martin County’s Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net), formerly of the SFWMD, and one of the primary creators of the STAs, has been revealing publicly at River Coalition meetings and SFWMD meetings  that although more STAs have been built since 1994 to bring and clean water into the WCA/Everglades, less water is actually getting there!

2014 was the first year in ten years that a substantial amount of water (over 250,000 Acre Feet) was sent south. (See chart below.) This is odd isn’t it? And until last year, most of that water was EAA water used to water their crops, not “overflow” Lake Okeechobee water.

Dr Goforth's chart showing amount of Lake O. water sent south to the STAs from 1995-2014.
Dr Goforth’s chart showing amount of Lake O. water sent south to the STAs from 1995-2014.

I believe it was the public outcry that inspired the ACOE and SFWMD to send more water south last year through the STAs and WCAs.. .The problem lies with the SFWMD and ACOE mostly because in 1994, by law, phosphorus was limited into Everglades National Park. This is understandable, but adds to our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon continued destruction.

Even with all of the STAs and the WCAs nature cannot take up all of the man-made phosphorus and nitrogen from farming and development. So what can we do?

We must return more of the EAA land to nature or at least “man-made” nature…we must purchase the option lands….

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)

_________________________________________________

USGA: (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html)

STAs: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/20/learning-about-storm-water-treatment-areas-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Purchasing option lands:

(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/12/what-are-our-options-for-sending-it-south-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/15/water-water-everywhere-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

(www.jacquithurlowlippisch.com)

3 thoughts on “Understanding the Water Conservation Areas, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. The WCA’s are what’s left of the Everglades after Big Ag and government over-drained and polluted half of the Everglades.

    To say that we created the WCA’s would be like eating half of a pie and then saying we created the remaining half.

    Some interesting content, Jacqui.

    Like

  2. Around 1900 sugar was the main crop in Fellsmere –40 miles north of Stuart. Now(after the dry season) it takes 3 months of raining every day for the ground water level to be high enough to grow sugar. I know this because I help my dad with watering his orange trees. Just because you can not see the water in these south Florida farming areas does not mean it is not there.

    Like

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