Summer Rains Fuel Peace River For Now

The Upper Peace River’s only source of water is rainfall.

The ebb and flow of river flow react graphicly to the weather.

It has been rainy in recent months in the upper part of the basin and relatively dry in the lower part of the basin.

A spot check of tentative river flow data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey and rainfall data compiled by the National Weather Service illustrates shows the vagaries of this phenomenon.

July rainfall in Winter Haven was 13.14 inches (4th highest on record) and 12.26 inches in Bartow (15th highest on record). Flow in the Peace River at the Bartow gage was around 150 percent of average flow this week., but by the time the river reached Fort Meade and more tributaries had fed in, flow was more than 300 percent of average.

The flow at Zolfo Springs was about 250 percent of normal but rainfall in Wauchula in July was only 4.02 inches, which appears to be the 9th driest on record.

The flow at Arcadia was about 150 percent of average. Last month’s rainfall in Arcadia was 8.28 inches, the 48th wettest July on record.

None of the river flows was record-setting. Most of the records in this part of Florida date to 1960, the last year that scientists used to describe the wet period of the 1940s and 1950s.

Water managers use that data and something they call the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to argue the recent declines in streamflows are directly tied to changes in rainfall patterns.

How climate change will affect future rainfall and streamflows in Central Florida is a question that will bear directly on water supply planning as utilities look for non-traditional/alternative sources of water.

This year’s rainfall and consequent river flows have attracted attention because they are unusual, not the basis of long-term planning.

It will be interesting to see what the figures look like by year’s end.