Water Shortage Orders

Updated on 11-28-2017

The district’s Governing Board voted Sept. 19, 2017, to rescind the Water Shortage Warning Order.


In March 2017, the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board approved a Water Shortage Warning for seven counties due to hydrologic trends that reflected the effects of below-average rainfall across parts of the district. In May 2017, the order was expanded to include all counties within the district’s jurisdiction.

The objective of the Water Shortage Warning Order is to reduce water use and increase awareness of the need for conservation. Although conditions have not yet reached a point where there is an expectation of insufficient water to meet anticipated demand and protect water resources, current conditions do warrant heightened water conservation in all areas within the jurisdiction of the district.

The order also helps to align the water management districts as they work to promote compliance and support uniform water use restriction across Florida.

What is a Water Shortage Order?

The ultimate objective of a water shortage order is to reduce water use to prevent potential adverse environmental and economic impacts during drought conditions, among which are:

  • Supply problems for private well users due to lower aquifer levels
  • Lower lake levels, beyond the natural lower levels resulting from the drought itself, which might increase impacts to natural systems and recreational or commercial uses
  • Creation of a deficit from which it would take longer to recover with the return of normal rainfall
  • Degrading water quality in wells located in some parts of the district
  • Greater potential for sinkhole formation in limited areas

How does a Water Shortage Order work?

The decision to issue a water shortage order is data-driven. District staff evaluate current hydrologic conditions (rainfall, water levels, flows in rivers and springs, etc.) and develop recommendations for formal action. Orders are issued in phases: warning, phase one through four. Each have the goal to reduce water use and ensure enough water is available to meet essential demands.

  • A Water Shortage Warning indicates the need to increase awareness in anticipation of potential prolonged drought through largely voluntary water conservation activities.
  • Water Shortage phase one through four indicate the need to implement both voluntary and mandatory restrictions that are intended to reduce overall water use.

How do I know if I’m in an area covered by the Water Shortage Order?

The district collaborates with local governments, utilities and the media to communicate any requirements. Information is also available on the district’s website. Permit holders in the affected area are sent a notification letter or email.

We also coordinate with neighboring water management districts. A map is available to help determine in which water management district your home or business is located on our maps page.

Where can I find rainfall data?

A variety of hydrologic data can be found on our hydrologic data page.

What’s the difference between watering restrictions and a Water Shortage Order?

Watering restrictions, also called lawn watering restrictions, are year-round, mandatory restrictions that specify the days and hours (4 p.m. to 10 a.m.) when you may water your lawn. The designated days depend on whether you have an odd or even numbered address, and the time of year. The district works with local governments to promote watering restrictions and other methods of conservation.

A water shortage order is a temporary measure, which includes additional voluntary and mandatory restrictions and is issued because of below-average rainfall, groundwater and surface water flows, and in anticipation of prolonged drought.

When a Water Shortage Order is enacted, what restrictions must permit holders carry out?

The district works with key utilities, agricultural interests and other major affected user groups prior to issuance of the Water Shortage Order to obtain input on the proposed water use restrictions in the draft order to ensure that the restrictions obtain the desired reduction in water use without creating unnecessary hardship.

If the district determines that a phase one Water Shortage Order is needed, efficient water users are asked to voluntarily conserve on-site water use, which includes required landscape irrigation reductions. Discretionary water use for activities such as outdoor irrigation and personal vehicle washing have required restrictions and water users would be asked to voluntarily be more efficient.

How can I conserve water?

The largest water savings can be realized outdoors, where more than half of residential water is used on lawns and landscapes. More tips for saving water indoors and outdoors is found on the water conservation page.

When was the last time the district issued a Water Shortage Order?

A Water Shortage Warning Order was issued in 1999, modified several times, and rescinded in March 2006. The district and partnering districts continue to monitor water resources and weather conditions to make informed decisions related to water management across the state.