Tampa Bay Water Recovery Assessment

Flatwoods is assisting Tampa Bay Water with the development of a quantitative measure (metric) for assessing recovery. In accordance with Tampa Bay Water’s Consolidated Water Use Permit, a Recovery Assessment Plan is required to evaluate the recovery of water resources and environmental systems attributable to the reduction of groundwater withdrawals. Flatwoods efforts are focused on connected wetland systems (e.g. river and creek floodplain forests). In order to determine wetland recovery, Flatwoods in collaboration with Tampa Bay Water, is developing a methodology to assess connected wetland systems from a hydrological and ecological perspective. The initial assessment utilized cursory water level data review, historic and current aerial image review, and literature review (i.e. Drainage Studies, Historical Review Documents). Based on the initial assessment, the connected wetlands were identified as not stressed, moderately stressed, or severely stressed. The second step consisted of a field assessment focused on ecological data collection and establishment of specific elevation markers to be surveyed for later use in statistical analysis. The ecological data collection effort used the previously approved wetland habitat assessment form (WHA) which considers the vegetative components, soil characteristics, and hydrological indicators. An overall score for each wetland was determined based on the results of the WHA. Ground elevations markers were established for the wetland edge, change in ecotone, and wetland interior, as well as the landward extent of soils subsidence and significant tree fall. A subset of wetlands was also re-visited to determine the landward extent of histic epipedons and/or histosols, as applicable. These elevations were also established and will be used with the previously established transect elevations for statistical analysis. This analysis will be used to determine the metric for connected wetlands. Collaborative metric development efforts with Tampa Bay Water and Southwest Florida Water Management District are ongoing and are anticipated to be developed this year.