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North Florida's Drought Brings Water Levels In Apalachicola System To Near-Historic Lows

A river flanked by trees with its bottom revealed amid receding water levels
Suzanne Smith

North Florida’s drought conditions are expected to continue and there’s no sign of relief anytime soon. The lack of water is beginning to take a toll on the Apalachicola Bay and river. In Tallahassee alone, there were 16 days of 95 degree or higher temperatures this summer.

Florida state climatologist David Zierden  says the region’s present drought conditions will remain for the next few weeks.

“We’re under this really stubborn ridge of high pressure across the eastern United States which is bringing us this lack of rainfall and dryer conditions and heat, and that looks to persist through the next  one-to-two weeks in the horizon," he says. "it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.”

The drought is also impacting the area’s imperiled Apalachicola Bay. Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman notes water flow has slowed, and impacts the people and economy that depend on the river and bay.

“That can lead to challenges both the water quality coming into the Apalachicola Bay which you’re probably familiar with some of the history of the oyster industry in the challenges we’ve had.”

The river contains plants, animals, and other natural resources that are vital to North Florida's ecosystems.

Researchers have been trying to restore the Bay’s health and revive the oyster industry, but that depends on strong river flows. Drought doesn’t help those efforts. A federal hearing in a long running lawsuit over water flow and sharing between Florida and Georgia is set for Oct. 17 in New Mexico. Florida has accused Georgia of keeping too much water upstream, hurting the system downstream. 

Meanwhile Zierden says the Apalachicola River’s current level is nearing historic lows.

Brittany Jarret is a senior broadcast journalism student at Florida A&MUniversity. She currently serves as the Assistant Lifestyles Editor for the FAMUAN newspaper and a live-shot reporter for FAMU’s News 20 at Five. Her passion for writing and storytelling is deeply displayed through her goal to become a multimedia journalist.