Florida lake dispute: water for farms and cities, or river and fish?

Lake Okeechobee sits at the center of a conflict over the dwindling regional water supply, one that might be broadly summed up as ``farms vs. fish.''

The dispute over a few inches of water from the massive lake may only be the first of many to come -- unless the rainy season arrives on schedule and wetter than normal.

On one side: Lee County, backed by environmentalists and Southwest Florida fishing and tourism interests, clamoring for more lake water to protect the Caloosahatchee River and one of the richest estuaries in the state. On the other side: Farmers who tap the lake for irrigation, and Southeastern cities that rely on it as a backup -- both watching the fast-dropping lake level with growing unease.

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