Don’t Pump Now

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Monday the SJRWMD will vote on whether or not to allow Seminole Co. to pump water out of the St. Johns River for use in the greater Orlando area so they can expand development.
Read on for the article which was published Sunday April 12, 2009   in the Gainesville Sun.

The original editorial appeared HERE in the Gainesville Sun.

Editorial: Don’t pump now

If approved, the Yankee Lake permit would be the first significant pumping of our treasured rivers as a quick fix to greater Orlando’s growing water shortage.

If approved, the permit would likely be just the first of many, and quite arguably unnecessary, taps into our rivers.

If approved, the permit would fly in the face of prudent economic and environmental stewardship.

The nine-member SJRWMD Governing Board should reject the Yankee Lake request as stewards of the public interest. At very least, postpone it.

Pumping the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers is a highly unpopular solution to the district’s intensifying water shortage. The notion has brought resolutions and ridicule from Jacksonville to Orlando, from city councils to citizen groups, because of the inordinate expense and the inevitable environmental damage massive withdrawals could cause,

Here in the Heart of Florida, Alachua and Marion counties have banded together in vociferous opposition to pumping the rivers.

Nonetheless, water district officials have aggressively promoted the idea and grown it into a multibillion-dollar system of pipelines and pumping stations that would circle the district. The Yankee Lake plant would be but the first step, the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent, toward St. Johns realizing this ill-conceived vision of our water future.

The Yankee Lake vote is also coming before a $2 million study assessing the potential environmental damage large takings of river water would have on the St. Johns, the Ocklawaha, their springs and estuaries. The report is due to be finalized next year. Why not wait?

But maybe the biggest omission from the water district’s water supply strategy is an approach that would cost the taxpayers the least and protect our rivers the most. St. Johns has no comprehensive, coordinated conservation program. It is well documented that Central Florida – including Seminole, Orange and, worst of all, Marion counties – uses more water per capita, significantly more, than the state or national averages. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way and it doesn’t have to cost billions.

In Pinellas and Sarasota counties, on the Gulf coast, aggressive conservation programs are in place. Constant public education coupled with coordinated programs for reuse, retrofitting and restrictions have lowered per capita daily water consumption in both counties to less than 100 gallons. That’s less than half what Seminole, Orange or Marion can claim.

The St. Johns board, it seems, has been listening only to a water district staff bent on pumping our rivers and building a massive web of pipelines at an unfathomable cost. Maybe it is time it listened to the people and communities it is supposed to represent. The people and the local governments see the folly in pumping and piping our river water – especially before we have even undertaken any serious attempt to slow the drain of our aquifer through conservation.

The St. Johns district’s mission statement says: “We will ensure the sustainable use and protection of water resources for the benefit of the people of the District and the state of Florida.” It could achieve that far, far more efficiently and economically through serious conservation programs instead of megabuck pump-and-pipe initiatives.

Approving the Yankee Lake permit request would be irresponsible. The Governing Board should start listening to the people.

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