WHAT IS HYDROLOGY?
Hydrology refers to the study of water and how it impacts the environment. Precipitation, groundwater, runoff, lakes and streams: all of these seemingly individual components interact with one another to form a dynamic system known as the hydrologic or water cycle. Understanding these interactions as well as how each of these aspects can affect things like the local ecology and lake water quality is one of the key management strategies of the City’s Natural Resources Division. The following sections provide some background information on some of the key parameters monitored by the City as well as a brief report of current hydrologic conditions, updated monthly.
When water from the atmosphere makes its way to the Earth in various forms (e.g. rain, snow, sleet, hail), it is referred to as precipitation. Locally, the predominant form we see is rainfall. Due to its geographic location at the top of a ridge, Winter Haven is a purely rainfall driven hydrologic system—meaning that the source of all surface and groundwater is derived from rain as opposed to water flow from upstream. In fact, Winter Haven’s lakes act as part of the headwaters for the Peace River which flows to the Gulf of Mexico via Charlotte Harbor. The implication of being completely rainfall driven is that the amount of water in our aquifers and lakes is directly related to how much rain we receive.
In order to monitor local precipitation, the City relies on data collected from a growing network of weather stations and radar. The importance of employing multiple data sources is due to the inaccuracies with representing localized rainfall using only one source (e.g. it can rain in one part of town while another area is dry). In response, new weather stations are regularly added by the Natural Resources Division and the data can be viewed by following the links provided below:
Also known as lake stage, surface level represents the height above sea level of a lake’s surface and is an incredibly important metric to keep track of. As the Chain of Lakes City, Winter Haven prides itself on its numerous waterbodies which serve as integral social, economic, and ecological resources for the community. When the level of a lake fluctuates it can impact things like navigation through canals, the ability for residents to use docks and boat ramps, and wetland connectivity—which can also affect water quality. Rainfall and groundwater conditions play an enormous role in lake stage fluctuations. Lake levels are typically replenished during Florida’s “wet” season (May – September) and will decline during the “dry” season (October – April).
With roughly 50 lakes in the Winter Haven area, monitoring the level of each would prove challenging. However, the 14 connected lakes of the Southern Chain are generally considered to be representative of all the lakes in the region. Partnering with the Lakes Region Lakes Management District, the City compiles daily staff gauge readings for the Southern Chain to track fluctuations and compare with historic levels. Installing level sensors on more lakes is one of the Natural Resources Division’s main management goals for the future.