Let's think about water. We need it to survive but where does it come from? If we look at the planet from space, we see a blue planet, with 71 percent of the surface area being water. All those oceans hold 97 percent of the water on the planet but we can't drink a drop because it contains so much salt. That leaves only 3 percent as freshwater.
We can't even drink all of that water because about 69 percent of it is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. Thirty percent of the freshwater is hidden under the ground. (Most of Florida gets its water from aquifers, which are areas of rock or sand saturated with water.) That leaves about 1 percent of the freshwater available on the planet in lakes, rivers and swamp areas.
A minute amount of the freshwater is in the air we breathe and in circulation as vapor in the atmosphere. This water makes up the clouds and rainfall we depend on for our freshwater supply.
In Hernando County we have a wide range of rainfall not only between our wet and dry seasons but also over our historical record. The normal annual rainfall for the county is about 54 inches. Coastal areas of the county normally get less, and the eastern side of the county gets a little more due to the summer thunderstorms which usually cause rainfall inland. The highest amount on record is 80 inches in 1959. The lowest was just over 38 inches in 2000.
We average 2 to 3 inches of rain per month in the dry season (November to April) to more than 6 inches per month during the summer storm season (June to September). Rainfall in October and May can vary depending on climatic influences such as El Niño and La Niña and nontropical storm systems from the northern United States.
During the last 12 months, our rainfall total has been just less than 40 inches, below normal by more than 15 inches. The Floridan Aquifer, which provides our well water and public water supply, is also showing levels lower than normal.
The normal range for the aquifer varies across the county, but the Weeki Wachee deep observation well shows the aquifer at 11.5 feet, 3 feet lower than normal.
We need to conserve as much water as possible when we use this precious resource. Think about shutting the faucet off as soon as you can. Water your lawn and landscaping only once a week and at the correct time. Fix any leaking toilets or faucets because all those drips add up. Never dump chemicals or oil on the ground or into a storm drain because these areas drain into our ground water and eventually into our water supply.
For information on water conservation and hazardous waste disposal, visit www.hernandocounty.us/utils/. To learn more about pollution prevention, visit www.hernandocounty.us/npdes/index.htm.
John Burnett is water resources coordinator for the Hernando County Public Works Department.