Central Florida’s rainy season arrived early this year.
Any look at a weather radar map on most afternoons shows bands of rain moving across the landscape.
June rainfall was not record-setting in the area, but the totals were respectable.
Nevertheless, the upper reaches of the Peace River, which drains a watershed stretching to Lake Hamilton to the northeast and Lake Gibson to the northwest is barely flowing robustly enough for canoe outings and is running only about a quarter of average for this time of year in Bartow.
Rivers typically pick up flow as they course downstream.
The Peace River does not accomplish this normalcy except in times of high flow following heavy storms or hurricanes.
If you look at the flow at Fort Meade, you will see it is two-thirds of the Bartow flow.
The reason for this is well-known.
Decades ago industrial water use, which in those days was completely unregulated, began lowering the aquifer level by about 50 feet in that part of Polk County.
Historically ground water flowed from vents in the riverbed into the river to augment its flow. Nearby a second-magnitude spring called Kissengen Spring bubbled into a popular swimming hole between Bartow and Homeland.
Today the situation is reversed. River water flows into the riverbed vents before it gets very far downstream. At times, portions of the river flow backwards into an offstream sink.
Water managers have spent millions of dollars to turn Lake Hancock into a reservoir to keep the river from running dry, as it has during periodic droughts beginning in 1981.
How does this history apply to the current efforts to find more water to pump from the ground under the Polk Regional Water Cooperative?
It means we need to pay attention as the plans slowly unfold to implement already agreed-upon project to probe lower regions of the aquifer that models reportedly tell us can sustain water pumping, at least in the near future.
The main problem is that most of this will occur slowly over the period of a generation or more.
That’s why it is also important to pass along what we know today to the next generation who will experience the effects of whatever faults occur in the models or whatever political decisions occur to ramp up the pumping to feed the growth machine.
These are questions we will only ignore at our peril.