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Lake Profile

Okeechobee

General Information

Description The south Florida freshwater ecosystem includes the KissimmeeRiver, Lake Okeechobee and The Everglades.
Country United States of America
Latitude 27° 0' 0" (27.0000)
Longitude -80° 45' 0" (-80.7500)
State Florida

Physical Characteristics

Description Okeechobee is highly regulated as a reservoir for water supply and flood control.
Surface Area 1,000.00 km2
Origin Tectonic
Type Fresh
Permanent
Natural

Socio-Political

Economic Value
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Description Lake Okeechobee restoration is incorporated into the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. One goal is to reduce total phosphorus in the lake's water from a current concentration of 110 to 40 ug/L. The information generated from monitoring will be used to adapt the management plan.

One contentious issue has been whether or not to lower the water level of Lake Okeechobee. Scientists believed that a managed recession (drawdown) of water level would benefit the lake ecosystem. There were risks, however, given possible future water shortages and potential environmental impacts to downstream ecosystems receiving large amounts of nutrient-rich fresh water. Agriculture and utility industries favored higher water levels. Recreation users and businesses wanted no or minimal discharge from the lake, regardless of water level. Most recreation users and businesses wanted lower water levels to improve the fishery. An aggressive plan to release water was approved in April 2000. Water quality conditions improved throughout the lake following the releases, and submerged plants made a dramatic recovery. The short-term releases appear to have had no lasting negative impacts on downstream ecosystems. Severe drought conditions developed in the region following the recession, however, and severe water use restrictions were necessary for several months. The local economy, which depends heavily on recreational fishing, suffered when the use of boat launch areas had to be curtailed because of low water levels. (Steinman, A., K. Havens, and L. Hornung. 2002. The managed recession of Lake Okeechobee, Florida: integrating science and natural resource management. Conservation Ecology 6(2): 17. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss2/art17 .)

Issues Nutrient pollution from dairy and beef cattle farm runoff is a serious problem.
Other Issues Nutrient pollution
Monitoring

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Phosphorus runoff has shifted the composition of the algal, invertebrate and higher plant community, in turn altering the food web.
Designations
Species of Concern

Organizations

Conservation Center for Lake Okeechobee Kissimmee River

Documents

Resources

ILEC Database
Okeechobee Advisory Number 200321

News

2/12/2007 - Water managers to recommend stopping water releases from Lake Okeechobee
10/27/2004 - Lake Okeechobee 'back to square one'
6/22/2004 - Exotic Catfish a Threat to Lake's Dikes, Levees
6/19/2004 - Okeechobee more than water facility
2/20/2003 - Everglades standard for phosphorus in water proposed
11/19/2001 - Tributary to Lake Okeechobee sees white ibis, herons,egrets return
11/13/2001 - Coalition seeks to fix global lake problem
8/22/2001 - Ranchers can eliminate phosphorus fertilizer and help Lake Okeechobee
2/9/1998 - Research finds alligator problems also evident in less polluted lakes

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.
US EPA (2004) National Listing of Fish Advisories Database

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