The City of Ocala has joined in a Florida Division of Administrative Hearings case in which an Interlachen environmentalist is challenging the St. Johns River Water Management District’s new flow standards for Silver Springs.

Karen Chadwick said in her petition against the water agency that allowing an additional 2.5 percent decline in flow would damage the river. The Ocala City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday, with a councilwoman absent, to support the water district.

The reduced flow would essentially allow additional groundwater pumping. At current pumping rates and expected population growth, the water district staff estimates the new flow levels will be exceeded by 2024.

The council intervened at the request of Assistant City Attorney James Gooding, who told them that water district board member Fred Roberts asked the city to intervene on behalf of the water district.

Gooding said that given the new flow standards, the city’s costs to provide water to customers will increase by millions of dollars because the water district will require the city to conserve and reuse more water in the future. He also said if Judge E. Gary Early rules against the water district and does not allow any additional flow declines, it would cost the city a lot more.

Mike Register, the water district’s division director for water supply, told the City Council that the district is confident its calculations are correct in how much the spring’s flow could decline before it harmed the spring and the wildlife that depend on it.

The spring’s flow has decreased 32 percent since the 1930s. Much of the decline, environmentalists say, is due to overpumping of the aquifer. The water district contends the reduction is because of a long drought.

Only Mayor Kent Guinn asked that someone explain the springs’ fluctuations in flow over the years.

 Gooding told Guinn that while he was no expert, the flow issues were cyclical and followed a 25-year pattern.