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Everglades Highlights

Lake Okeechobee

everglades at sunset by Joe Shlabotnik (Creative Commons - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)Lake Okeechobee is a large, shallow eutrophic lake located in subtropical south central Florida and is a major feature of the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades (KOE) system. The KOE system is a continuous hydrologic system extending from Central Florida south to Florida Bay. Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in Florida and the second largest freshwater lake within the contiguous United States, covering approximately 730 square miles. Since 1992, the lake has had an average lake-wide depth of nine feet. The lake has a maximum storage capacity of 1.05 trillion gallons (at a depth of 19 feet). Lake Okeechobee is designated a Class I water that provides drinking water for urban areas, irrigation water for agricultural lands, recharge for aquifers, freshwater for the Everglades, habitat for fish and waterfowl, flood control, navigation, and many recreational opportunities.

Water quality in the lake has degraded over time due to high phosphorus loadings resulting from man-induced hydrologic and land use modifications over the past 60 years. The total phosphorus concentrations that currently exist in the lake are in excess of the amount needed for a healthy ecosystem. The in-lake total phosphorus concentrations have doubled over the last 50 years as a result of increased inputs from the watershed. The construction of canals and structures, as part of the C&SF Project, facilitated the delivery of stormwater runoff from intensive land uses that have developed in the surrounding watershed. During the last five years, the average concentration of total phosphorus in the pelagic region of Lake Okeechobee was approximately 100 ppb.

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Office of Ecosystem Projects
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 24   Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000  
850-245-3166 (phone) / 850-245-3145 (fax)

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Last updated: May 17, 2013