Make Crystal River Clear Again

photo John Moran

“Political science is the art of coercing real scientists to defend decisions being made in Tallahassee.”

And the water management district is not facing reality when they defend these decisions which are ruining our rivers, springs and aquifer.   We have the ability to make Crystal River clear again, but Tallahassee doesn’t want to spend the money.   Read OSFR member and advisor Dr. Bob Knight’s latest article in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


Robert Knight: Make Crystal River clear again


Posted at 2:00 AM

North Florida’s nature photographer laureate, John Moran, said it best when he paraphrased author Mark Twain: “The mightiest river in Florida is the River of Denial that flows through Tallahassee.”

Under tight control from the state’s capital, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is telling us that the springs that feed Kings Bay and Crystal River on Florida’s Nature Coast in Citrus County have more flow than they need to be healthy. But I ask you: “When was the last time those springs looked healthy to you?”

When I first boated and swam at Tarpon Hole in 1977, the water was crystal clear. The bottom of the spring was visible in 65 feet of water. When the Florida Springs Institute completed the Kings Bay Phytoremediation Demonstration Project last year, we were lucky to see the bottom in areas with only six feet of water.

Repeated efforts to dredge the benthic algae and to re-plant eelgrass at great public cost have failed due to rising salinity in the groundwater coming from the springs, as well as from Gulf of Mexico storms. The Southwest Florida Water Management District has spent millions to fix Kings Bay’s problems, yet the bay continues to degrade despite a plethora of additional plans and studies.

The latest insult to those who treasure Crystal River’s springs is the district’s draft plan to establish minimum flows. The 1972 Florida Water Resources Act required the adoption of minimum flows for the 70-plus springs feeding Kings Bay.

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 claim, brought to you at great expense by district staff and paid consultants, rings as true as recent promises by presidential candidates. Political science is the art of coercing real scientists to defend decisions being made in Tallahassee.

The U.S. Geological Survey, the most respected hydrological agency in the world, reported that the average natural historic flows of the Kings Bay/Crystal River springs system were between 916 and 975 cubic feet per second (between 592 and 630 million gallons per day). More recent measurements document that the average spring flow during the past decade has plummeted to 389 cubic feet per second (251 million gallons per day), a greater than 58 percent decline.

The principal underlying cause of the observed flow decline, saltwater intrusion and elevated nutrient concentrations at Kings Bay/Crystal River is excessive urban and agricultural development. The only way to reverse the algae problems and restore water clarity in Kings Bay is to dial back groundwater pumping and fertilizer use throughout the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The Crystal River springs are silent. You must be their voice if you want to see them and the entire Kings Bay ecosystem restored to health. Let the district’s Governing Board know that you do not support the proposed minimum flow for Kings Bay/Crystal River and that you adamantly oppose their decision to further reduce spring flows.

Tell the Governing Board members that you want Crystal River clear again, starting with a district-wide reduction of permitted groundwater pumping.

Remember Mark Twain’s other famous words: “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over!”

— Robert Knight is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. To learn more about restoring the Kings Bay/Crystal River Springs System, visit the institute’s website at and visit the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs.

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