After last Thursday’s WRAC meeting at the South Florida Water Management District, I left somewhat miffed.
The numbers seemed wrong….
These meetings are difficult to follow, and almost surreal at times. On Thursday, this was especially true with “paid” protesters yelling outside against the option land purchase, and afterwards the group’s slick sun-glassed/suit-wearing organizer coming inside to pat one of the WRAC members on the back.
I sat there thinking “life really is stranger than fiction,” no wonder south Florida satirist and writer Carl Haaisen says almost all of his material is “simply out of the newspapers…”
Another oddity for me was when Bubba Wade, representing US Sugar Corporation, during WRAC members’ comments referencing “2013,” in defense of not purchasing the option lands, quoted the acre footage of water to the St Lucie Estuary/IRL as “4.5 million acre feet annually,” —and thus justifying that if the 26,000 acre option lands located south of the lake were purchased, even with that water “exchanged,” it would never be “enough…”
I’m thinking to myself: “445,000—4.5 million…I saw “that” number in a Palm Beach Post article too, but I swear it said billion and not million acre feet….where are these numbers coming from? Is Bubba using the right numbers? I think they are wrong….Am I wrong?”
After the meeting, I even walked up to Mr Wade, who I have met on many occasions and feel I have a good working relationship with saying: “Bubba, where did you get your numbers? I am almost sure the St Lucie River, no maybe the estuaries received around 1.5 million acre feet of water in 2013, not 4.5 million acre feet to the SLR. What are the numbers? If we can’t agree on what numbers we are talking about, how we ever agree on anything at all? ”
Bubba was talking out loud trying to figure where he got his numbers, and I was wondering where I got mine as well…in the end we just stared at each other…
When I got home I consulted Dr Gary Goforth. I have interpreted and put into laymen terms what he wrote to me below.
It shows that the numbers change depending on what years one is talking about, and over how long a period of time.
First of all…. : For calendar year 2013, 1.584 million acre feet of Lake water was sent to the estuaries… The St Lucie gets about 20% of that…. But in figuring out “distribution,” one does not just look at one year….Dr Goforth shared again his hand out from last month’s SFWMD Governing Board meeting:
The chart below shows in acre feet, the “distribution of Lake Okeechobee releases from water years 1996-2015.” “20 years” of reference, gives a more accurate estimate of the long-term average of annual values than a shorter time period. Of course every year annual flows vary. For years 1996-2015 the average number of acre feet to the SLR/IRL is 270, 224.
The above chart is different as it shows a ten-year, not a twenty-year average, 1996-2005). Here the number, 442,000 looks more like Bubba’s 4.5 million acre feet. (I found this chart in Mark Perry’s presentation on his website at Florida Oceanographic.)This must be the chart Bubba Wade was referring to…?
Which number is better? Which number is correct? That depends what one is trying to prove. Right? 🙂
In any case, when quoting numbers, it is good to know which reference chart one is quoting. One one should also reference which chart one is using….This goes for me as well as for Mr Wade of U.S. Sugar….
WRAC, SFWMD, (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/wrac)
Mr Malcom (Bubba) Wade, US Sugar Corporation, (http://www.ussugar.com/press_room/bios/wade_bio.html)
Dr Gary Goforth: (http://garygoforth.net)
Florida Oceanographic/Mark Perry’s power point presentations: (http://www.floridaocean.org/p/233/advocacy-environment#.VSKHyrrRwl8)
This photo is to reference a comment on this blog:
9 thoughts on “Getting the Numbers Straight With U.S. Sugar, SLR/IRL”
Reblogged this on Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.
I believe in an earlier blog you gave us a conversion chart from Mike Conner. It does feel as if numbers are tossed about JUST to confuse. Thank you for posting again. I too was just tossed the 4.5 million acre feet number and questioned if that wasn’t including what fell over the Everglades plus our discharges….
I got the same blank stare like you described.These days, I am better served using Gary Goforth’s numbers and Mike Conner’s conversion.
It is like the metric system around here.
As always,by our posts are wonderful.
Good idea. Thank you Don. —-Conversion sheet: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/photo2.jpg
There are two basic ways to look at a data set. You can look at it dispassionately, let the numbers tell their story, and try to find the “best fit”- or you can look at it as an opportunity to reinforce a preferred narrative. When the motive switches from science to promotion, strange things start to happen. The easy first step is to select favorable data sets and find reasons to exclude or ignore less favorable data. And since the guiding principle is not knowledge but profit, it’s a short downhill trip from convenient numbers to made up numbers.
Bubba’s “mistake” just happens to reinforce his argument. He gets quoted by media people who don’t fact check (you cite the PB Post) and the error and the conclusion it supports is broadcast throughout the media. Bubba and his company have no reason to give out good numbers when bad numbers work so well for them. Consider- if no one calls them on the error, they get the benefit of the support of bogus numbers. If somebody does call them on it, they apologize for the “mistake.” And when was the last time you saw a tv news station mention that a figure that they cited in a story last week was off by a factor of 10? Not only is the correction a boring story, it exposes the fact that they are lousy fact checkers and shouldn’t be trusted in future reporting…so it mostly doesn’t happen.
Great comment Dave. Thank you for adding this for all to see.
So unfortunate: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/10-reasons-why-the-us-sugar-land-deal-might-be-dea/nknrD/?icid=pbp_internallink_mypbpinvitationbox_feb2014_99cdaypass_post-purchase#46b1a60a.3936575.735695
I believe this number as reported in the PBP is incorrect:http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/10-reasons-why-the-us-sugar-land-deal-might-be-dea/nknrD/?icid=pbp_internallink_mypbpinvitationbox_feb2014_99cdaypass_post-purchase#46b1a60a.3936575.735695
I already sent in a correction, writing:
Today’s article states that 4.5 million a/f of water was dumped into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee in 2013. I know Bubba Wade of US Sugar has given out that number, but it is incorrect. I believe the correct number is approximately 1/3 of that. See p4 of Dr. Gary Goforth’s presentation from January 2015:http://garygoforth.net/2015%20EC%20-%20Goforth%20-%20Final.pdf
I got this reply from Christine Stapleton (writer of the article):
Thanks for your email. I got that number from Jeff Kivett’s Power Point presentation to the board on system constraints. It’s on page 16. It includes releases to both the St. Lucie AND Caloosahatchee.
This is my page 16 of J.Kivett’s document. I don’t see it. I also wrote her… We’ll see..https://jacquithurlowlippisch.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/photo3.jpg
4-7-15: This is THE source where the 4.5 million acre feet comes from. https://jacquithurlowlippisch.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/photo4.jpg
(Jeff Kivett’s SFWMD constraints doc.) Thank you to Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post for sharing when I asked where she got her sources for her article referred to in comments in this blog post. THE PROBLEM with the slide is that this is referring to ALL WATER into the estuaries: “local runoff” and Lake Okeechobee water. This conversation, this blog post, the land purchase south of the lake, is not about ALL WATER/”LOCAL” runoff water—it is about Lake Okeechobee water and how the ACOE and SFWMD make us take this water that IS NOT OURS. The 4.5 M number mentioned by Mr Wade or Ms Stapleton makes it sound like it is not possible to “fix” lake O, or to buy enough land that would help the estuaries or hold clean, and convey water. This is not completely true.