If you've noticed the water in the Choctawhatchee Bay has been murkier than usual lately, there's no need to worry.
Water conditions vary with the tides, the weather and a host of other environmental factors, according to Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance Executive Director Allison McDowell. She said the water may appear murkier this time of year due to several factors.
“Some of the murkiness can be caused by wind mixing, and because it’s shallower this time of year due to the tides being lowest in the winter,” McDowell said. “Lots of times, people talk to us about brown water because there has been more rainfall.”
Cody Lindsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, said unofficial rainfall totals for Destin so far in 2017 indicate that we are seeing more than the usual amount of rain. Destin’s total rainfall for 2017 is already at 7.41 inches, with the normal total being around 5.25 inches.
“We are definitely above normal in rainfall, because we had that big event where we got a lot of rain in January,” Lindsey said.
He added that cold fronts come through and disrupt the normal southerly wind pattern with northern and easterly winds. The frequent changes in wind patterns this time of year, with cold fronts occasionally punctuating the normally mild or warm weather, can lead to disruptions in the soil of the bay.
McDowell said wind and rain were likely the cause of the area’s murkier waters lately. The murkiness is caused mainly by leaves that break down in the Choctawhatchee River, which feeds freshwater into the Choctawhatchee Bay.
“The water that comes down the Choctawhatchee River is called ‘blackwater,’ and it is full of tannin from leaves that fall and other organic material,” McDowell said. “It’s like how tea turns water brown when you put tea bags in it. The water in the bay is not dirty, it’s just different.”
She said the tides during winter time are the lowest of any other time of the year, and the combination of low ties and increased rain and wind could turn the water brown.