Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism
Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org
Over the last 20 years, there have been countless studies about Florida’s water future. How many have been heeded? Certainly in the last few years, not many. Smart Growth has been discontinued as a topic of discussion since the start of the Scott administration. He reorganized the DEP, putting his cronies at the helm as well as at the helms of the water management districts. The WMDs now are more responsible for smoothing out the permitting process than protecting our water supplies. He abolished the Development of Regional Impact agency which had a voice in regulating large scale developments . Urban sprawl is now the norm rather than the exception.
As an example, the Deseret Ranch development will convert tens of thousands of acres of ranch land into neighborhoods and change the face of Osceola County.
Meanwhile, water, the lifeline of Florida, continues to be depleted by the current population and businesses and agriculture. The aquifer is going down, resulting in lower flow rates, to the extent that some of the springs, that feed our rivers, have run dry. Many springs are murky and are becoming less appealing to visitors. Salt water intrusion from below the fresh water is a fact of life.
Yet, in the case of Kings Bay and Crystal River and its springs, their health and the apathy of government regulators are clearly on focus. The South Florida Water Management District’s has created a draft plan to establish minimum flows. The Florida Water Resources Act required the adoption of minimum flows for the 70-plus springs feeding Kings Bay in 1972. Why the wait?
In a piece in the Gainesville Sun on Dec 1, 2016, Robert Knight, the director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute said: ”After 44 years of injurious delay and inaction, the water management district has somehow concluded that an additional 12 percent decline in flows at Kings Bay/Crystal River will not cause “significant harm." This in a spring that formerly had visibility to the bottom at 65 feet and may now have only 6 feet visibility. He also notes that the natural historic flows have been cut nearly in half. The eelgrass on the bottom, which supported many game fish, is gone. Salinity and nutrient load are on the rise. But the SFWMD says “the springs have enough flow to be healthy.”
WATER 2070 AND FLORIDA 2070
Now comes news of a new study called Water 2070. It was done by the 1000 Friends of Florida and conducted jointly with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida, to look at the state’s water needs 50 years out. It follows their study Florida 2070, which looked at population growth and development patterns over the next 50 years.
University of Florida researchers indicated that Florida's projected population growth of 15 million people by 2070 will cause water use statewide to increase by more than 50 percent.
Peggy Carr, a professor at UF’s GeoPlan Center who worked on the analysis is quoted in the Ocala Star Banner article on Nov 23: “If we don’t change the way we are developing, more than one-third of Florida will be paved over.”
That means the aquifer will continue to be drained and there will be less wetlands to recharge it.
Joseph J. Delfino and James P. Heaney, Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville presented a paper to the Conference on Allocating Water: Economics and the Environment in Portland,OR in 2004 when Florida had only 16000 people. The paper, entitled: ”CHALLENGES TO WATER RESOURCES SUSTAINABILITY IN FLORIDA” and gave an analysis of the average rainwater falling in Florida at the time. It said, in part: ”Over the long term, the state receives between 1.0 and 1.8 meters of rain annually, with an average of about 1.4 meters that is not evenly distributed. Most of the rain is lost to evapo-transpiration and runoff, leaving at most 0.13 – 0.17 m for aquifer recharge.” And that was well before the comments by Peggy Carr of the extent of the paving in the next 50 years.
Since it is obvious that we will need more water in the future than we are likely to have, measures need to be taken now to address the problem. Solutions include:
Water Conservation: from decreasing lawn irrigation by planting Florida-friendly yards to smarter irrigation from agriculture. From compact development instead of urban sprawl. From stopping the permitting of water withdrawals by companies that just bottle it and sell it.
Finding New Water Sources: more recycled water and better use of it. Increasing the quality of recycled water to drinking standards so it can be used in agricultural irrigation systems.
Desalinization has been touted as an option and is beings used in the Tamps area. However, without a large metropolitan area to be served, the infrastructure will probably be too complex to make it feasible.
Several years ago, the SJRWMD set forth a plan to take surface water from the river and inject it into the aquifer. That has it’s problems in that that water, polluted by run-offs from farms and lawns, oil and gas from boats, etc., would mean treating it to drinking water standards prior to injecting it into the aquifer.
Protecting Our Ground Waters: High nutrient loads from lawns, septic systems, and other point sources are causing algal blooms, destruction of sub-surface grasses, and in general, habitats for the fish and other aquatic animals that call our rivers and lakes home. We need to repair our affected water bodies and protect the rest.
The real question is: for whom is this study directed? The people who have direct impact on the state of Florida’s water future don’t care a hoot about 50 years from now. They only look forward one quarter to the next filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission which determines the direction of their stock. They will all be dead in 50 years, and if not, they and their heirs and assigns will be living very comfortably elsewhere. And the politicians in their pockets? Same thing.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As I implied in my Special Report on Florida’s Springs last month, I think it is time the club got involved in this issue. The easiest way is to start a campaign to convince the state leadership that they need to look forward. The economics lead to that if they open their eyes. As I said in my Prez Sez of April 2016, the diversion of waters from Lake Ockeechobee is causing the same algal blooms in the Gulf near the Caloosahatchee River delta as the Indian River Lagoon is here. Many people are cancelling their plans to visit this area because of it. The economic impact will be felt by the hotel and restaurant owners who cater to these visitors. With the new executive committee we have this year, I think we can energize the club into writing and coordinating and submitting a sign-on letter to the state leadership which can have as many like-minded organizations signing on as we have volunteers to make lists of organizations to which they belong. I am sure we can get help from Audubon of Florida in this cause. Let’s discuss this at the December meeting. I am open to any ideas.