MIAMI (CBS4) – South Florida may be on the verge of tighter water restrictions as a record-breaking dry spell endures.

The South Florida Water Management District will convene Thursday to decide whether its 16-county area should be placed on a water shortage warning.

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The pending decision comes as the National Weather Service has placed both Broward and Palm Beach counties in the “extreme drought” category.

The first potential restriction would mean a voluntary cutback on landscape watering. If the lack of rain continues for the area from Orlando to the Keys, the voluntary cutbacks could turn mandatory for South Florida.

The looming water restrictions follow a 3 month stretch, from November through February, where the district has received the least amount of rain since record-keeping commenced in 1932.

Water managers said for the first time in 2011 water levels in Lake Okeechobee have dipped below the 12 feet above sea level mark. The drop in the water level is a considerable concern for the district since Lake Okeechobee is South Florida’s backup water supply.

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Our parched conditions put most of South Florida, according to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, at a greater risk of wild fires; Broward County is at a very high risk.

But the silver lining, in the form of rain, appears dim for the dry area as the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Prediction Center calls for a 40 to 50 percent chance of below normal rainfall for South Florida.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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