Thanks to Karen Chadwick for posting this news item on AQUIFERious. The report was aired on Channel 9 of Orlando and is partially copied in below. The ramifications of this report, if true, are immense.
Environmental groups in north Florida have been stating for years that the water models used by the water management districts are seriously flawed but water managers from the DEP on down to the districts have brushed off the allegations as inconsequential and gone merrily on issuing water permits with abandon.
The issue at hand involves John Miklos of St. Johns River Water Management District, but might easily and most likely be duplicated at Suwannee River and other districts.
The error in question is not a small one. The essence is that the district was unaware that they were using up nearly twice the amount of water that they thought they were.
The results have been catastrophic for our rivers in Springs. Our aquifer continues to drop and saying it is being replenished by rainfall is a myth perpetuated by some water managers who have yet to explain why such incompetence was allowed to continue for so many years.
- Posted: 6:17 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014
9 Investigates: Math mistake could mean central Fla. running out of water faster than expected
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —
Florida may be running out of fresh water faster than previously thought.
9 Investigates has been reviewing depositions of senior staff members with the St. Johns River Water Management District as a result of a hearing before Judge E. Gary Early with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. According to statements made by staff members, the water models used by staff at the St. Johns district may have had a fundamental flaw that caused the water management district to miscalculate how fast water is coming out of the Floridan Aquifer versus how fast the aquifer is recharging.
According to the deposition of Assistant Division Director for the Division of Regulatory, Engineering and Environmental Services Thomas Bartol, the water management district failed to account for what are known as sinks and drains. Sinks and drains are essentially lakes and other bodies of water where groundwater flows in and out of the aquifer. In the deposition, Bartol told attorneys, “So when we went back, we discovered this error. We kept those features in the model and just focused on the withdrawal, and that 29 CFS (cubic feet per second) jumped to somewhere between 45 to 50.”
In the same deposition, Bartol is asked to elaborate on groundwater, with attorneys asking, “Currently, the district recognizes that there has been a regional decline in groundwater levels, correct?” Bartol answers, “Yes.”
“We’ve taken more than our fair share, let’s just say that,” said Dr. Bob Knight of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. “The environment is getting the short end right now.”
Knight says using the model with the error, St. Johns issued what are known as “consumptive use permits” based on the presumption that water was flowing back into the aquifer faster than it was. The largest drain on Florida’s groundwater is agriculture and residential use; however,Knight says even the permit for Niagara Bottling in Lake County was approved by St. Johns using the model with the error.
“There are a lot of good people and good staff at St. Johns that should have known that these problems were already too large,” said Knight. “The modeling approach has been a problem for a very long time.”
“If there were errors made, absolutely there is a concern, but at this point in time I don’t know if that is definitely the answer,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Chairman John Miklos.
Water management district officials say they are still reviewing their models and calculating flows at places like Silver Springs and Wekiva Springs.
“Staff has been briefing me on this and we’re taking a closer look at it,” said Miklos.
The state has five water management districts; each district has an unpaid governing board that is appointed by the governor of Florida. According to the state, the districts are charged with maintaining “programs to manage the consumptive use of water, aquifer recharge, well construction and surface water management.” It is unknown if the other four water management districts have found similar errors in the models used for calculations.