University of Florida

Drought in Florida

Why is there drought if it rains so much?

Florida receives an average of 54 inches of rain each year, more than any other state except Louisiana. However, drought has been a recurring and serious problem in the state, leading to major statewide or regional droughts in the early 1970s, the early 1980s, the 1989-1990 period and 1999-2001.

One reason is that much of Florida's rainfall is seasonal, leading to wet summers and dry winters. Another issue is that much of Florida's soil is sand, which means that water passes through quickly and isn't retained in the upper layers of soil.

You can learn more about Florida's current trends at "Conserving Water in 2009 and Beyond."

Planning for drought

Since Florida routinely experiences drought, it makes sense to plan your landscape with drought in mind. You can design your yard to be less dependent on water, a concept sometimes referred to as "xeriscaping" or creating a "Florida-friendly yard."

  • Reduce the amount of turfgrass in your landscape.
  • Incorporate more mulched beds containing native and drought-tolerant plants.
  • Group plants by their water requirements.
  • Practice firewise landscaping in your yard.
  • Mulch around plants and trees to help lock in moisture.
  • Irrigate deeply for longer periods of time to help promote deeper, more drought-tolerant root systems.
  • Mow your grass at a a high setting with a sharp blade, and leave clippings in place.
  • Be sure your irrigation systems are calibrated properly.

Dealing with drought

In times of drought, watering restrictions are often issued by one of Florida’s five water management districts, which handle the state’s water issues including aquifers, storm water runoff, flood protection, and drought management.

The restrictions usually follow a few central tenets:

  • Watering can occur no more than two days per week, typically before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Even-numbered addressses can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays
  • Odd-numbered addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays

Check with your local water management district for information specific to your area. Be aware that some counties fall within two different water management districts. This is because district boundaries reflect Florida’s water sources and the way that water travels across the state rather than adhering to political boundaries like county lines.


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