On August 21, 2014 at 10:48AM, at Ichetucknee Alliance published the following article:
by John Jopling
Speaking on behalf of the Ichetucknee Alliance at the Suwannee River Water Management District meeting on August 12, 2014, I called on the District to enact a moratorium on new large (over 100,000 gallons per day) water use permits until such time as District staff members are able to calculate a realistic water balance or water budget for the area that includes the Ichetucknee River and its associated springs. I based the Alliance’s call for a moratorium on four factors.
First, the District has acknowledged that flows in the Ichetucknee River and its associated springs are impaired and that the river should be classified as being “in recovery,” meaning that steps must be taken to restore lost flows.
Second—even after acknowledging that the river should be in recovery—the District issued a large water use permit (WUP) that staff reported would negatively affect the Ichetucknee.
Third, precedent for a moratorium exists in Florida. The Southwest Florida Water Management District stopped issuing WUPs in a section of one of its Water Use Caution Areas.
Fourth, the State of Florida made a huge investment in Ichetucknee Springs State Park for the public’s benefit, spending close to $40 million to acquire and protect both land and water. Over 7 million people have visited Ichetucknee Springs since it became a state park. This large investment for the public’s benefit must be protected, not wasted.
The Alliance is also concerned about the health of the Floridan Aquifer, not only because it feeds our rivers and springs but also because it supplies our drinking water. While aquifer levels fluctuate over time, long-term trends confirm that those levels are dropping throughout Florida—and when the level of freshwater in the Floridan Aquifer drops, the layer of saltwater underneath it rises. Falling aquifer levels can result in dry wells or saltwater intrusion like that experienced recently in Cedar Key. Such situations can affect farmers and public utility operators as well as homeowners and taxpayers.
Because they are the visible top layer of the aquifer, our freshwater springs are the first indicators of potential aquifer problems. Reduced flows such as those acknowledged in the Ichetucknee indicate falling aquifer levels caused by overuse of water, inadequate recharge, and drought.
Human beings cannot control drought; however, we can improve aquifer recharge and we can control the amount of water we are using. We are pleased that SRWMD currently has active recharge projects. The Alliance believes that more must be done, however, to control water use. Florida needs to create a strong water conservation ethic before we even begin to use taxpayer money to construct large alternative water supply projects, because without such an ethic all those projects will do is encourage more water use. To save our springs, we are all going to have to change the ways we use water.
To calculate a water budget, we need to know how much “water income” we have—in terms of rainfall that recharges the aquifer—as opposed to how much we are losing through pumping, evapotranspiration, and runoff (rainfall that is not captured for aquifer recharge). Knowing exactly how much water we are pumping and knowing the cumulative effects of those water withdrawals on the aquifer are keys to managing water use permit requests—and managing those requests is key to restoring the Ichetucknee.
Based on the Suwannee River Water Management District’s acknowledgement of impairment to the Ichetucknee along with our stated mission to restore the river to its average historical flow rate, the Ichetucknee Alliance believes that our water budget is overdrawn; that is why we have called for a moratorium on new large water use permits.