Mother Nature Holds the Cards

Helpful Charts – Where are We with L.O. Discharges 2023

The discharges have gone on for a long time. The ACOE with the support of the SFWMD began discharging to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on January 22, 2023 as the level of Lake Okeechobee had jumped four feet when Hurricane Ian ground through southwest Florida last September.

Then strangely algae appeared in Lake Okeechobee in February, very early in the year, and the ACOE halted and restarted discharges three times as the Colonel was uncomfortable with the visual amount of algae at S-308 in Port Mayaca. Then the weather got cooler and the the algae visually subsided and the ACOE continued the goal of getting the lake down for the next hurricane season for the lake operation schedule. For a hundred years the water that once flowed south from Lake Okeechobee has been increasingly blocked and redirected to the northern estuaries even though once there was a serious ACOE consideration in the 1950s of a third outlet south of the lake, “Plan 6.”

Today I share charts and information that is easy to understand as we enter the fourth named month of discharges. Will they stop? We have been fortunate in that the weather this year has been very dry and the lake is receding. For water managers according to the recent SFWMD Water Resource Form, current projections still have then lake between 13.5 and 14 feet on June 1st. But it seems so dry. Grass is brown and people are watering their lawns like crazy. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we go into a drought and we wish we had the water later? It has happened before. Mother Nature holds the highest cards in this poker game.


Chart tracking total flows to the estuary. Flows to the SLR other than discharges from L.O. are low as little rain, thus for scientists “under damaging range of 1500-2000 cfs.” Courtesy of John Mitnik Chief District Engineer and Asst. Ex. Dir. SFWMD
L.O. stages compared SFWMD Weekly Environmental Conditions Report 3-20-23
Salinity levels SLR/DEP 3-31-23
L.O. historical comparison of lake level ACOE/SFWMD. Today L.O. is reported at 14.59 feet.
Easy read chart of discharges. Courtesy Todd Thurlow

Florida Oceanographic Water Quality Report 3-31-23 B+


6 thoughts on “Mother Nature Holds the Cards

  1. Not sure where you got those Lake O. water level projections on June 1, but at the average daily water level drop in March of 0.031 feet (per day), the Lake O. water level on June 1 should be closer to 12.5 feet than anything above 13 feet. The water level today, April 1, 2023, should be right at 14.52 feet. In 30 days, on May 1, 2023, the water level should have dropped by almost another foot (0.031 feet/day X 30 days/month = 0.93 feet/month), mostly due to lack of rain, low northern inflows and a high evapotranspiration rate (~ 6,000+ cfs). I’d expect the rate of water level drop per day to be a little higher in April than it was in March, but we’ll have to wait a week or two to see what the April average turns out to be.

    Blake Faulkner

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