Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum: Santa Fe River, springs being bled to death
See the original article here at this link in the Gainesville Sun.
OSFR thanks Nathan Crabbe and the Gainesville Sun for their support for the environmental.
By Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson / and Jim Tatum / Special to The Sun
Posted Aug 21, 2019 at 2:00 AM Updated Aug 21, 2019 at 2:57 PM
Nestlé has responded to the recent flurry of articles about the water extraction renewal permit sought by Seven Springs Water Partnership, which would enable them to sell water to Nestlé. Some of this response is misinformation.
Nestlé’s defense of the extraction rests heavily on its claim that it is “dedicated to maintaining sustainable sources of high-quality water for future generations” and will take every step to manage springs “responsibly and sustainably,” as George Ring, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America, wrote in an Aug. 11 column.
The Santa Fe and its springs are absolutely not being managed sustainably. They are slowly but surely being bled to death under the watch of previous and current water managers.
The Santa Fe River is in recovery and impaired, which means it is below its normal and characteristic flow level and is polluted with excessive nutrients. A study by the Florida Springs Institute shows that nitrate in Ginnie Springs water is 3.7 times over the Department of Environmental Protection recommended maximum.
According to the DEP, nitrates sources for Ginnie Springs are agriculture at 66% and septic tanks at 6%. Since Seven Springs Water Partnership’s last permit, issued in 1999, the drop in the aquifer in some areas of the Santa Fe has averaged 0.15 feet per year.
In this 20-year period the aquifer has dropped approximately three feet. Consequently, the river flows many cubic feet per second less than when they received their permit. Overall, in the water management district in which Ginnie is located, the springs flow has declined an average of 48% from 1930–2010.
This is not sustainability. This is a steady and constant decline. The DEP admits their plan to achieve recovery will fail, which is why several organizations currently have a legal challenge against the agency. Yet Nestlé and Seven Springs Water Partnership want to profit by extracting even more water from this already over-pumped resource.
Although the current permit allows an average of 1.521 million gallons per day to be used, during its 20-year term the average pulled out per day never exceeded 270,000 gallons. Now that Nestlé owns the plant, indications are that they will use up to the full limit since they are expanding the plant facilities to handle bulk water transfer. This would be many times over what was previously used and would proportionally cause an even faster decline in the water levels and flows.
Nestlé has no plan to sustain nor restore the flow from the springs. To monitor the wells is not a plan nor a method to sustain the springs. Monitoring the wells will only show that there is less and less water. Nestle’s withdrawal will impact the springs and Santa Fe River in a negative way. The current problem is due in large part to over-pumping in the Santa Fe River basin itself, and more pumping from two 10-inch wells will most certainly make it worse.
What is more, we have an ethical issue with our state putting large sums of money into conservation practices and recharge projects on the Santa Fe River and then, at the same time, counteracting this action by fomenting the free extraction of a publicly owned natural resource by a for-profit company. Essentially, taxpayers are funding replenishment of the aquifer and then allowing Nestlé to take it out and sell it back to us.
The current permit expired in June, and the district responded to the new application for renewal with a request for additional information April 2. Some of the additional information requested was science to show that this pumping would not have a negative impact on wetlands, spring flow and endangered species.
Seven Springs revised their application, but did not furnish any science. The DEP sent another request for additional information July 12, once again requesting scientific data justify the groundwater demand.
Why is the applicant reluctant to provide science regarding negative impact to the environment? Logic tells us that pumping out 400,480,000 gallons of water from a spring over the course of a year will have an impact, and it will not help restore the river. So, Nestlé is not being honest with us. They want to pull more than 1 million of gallons a day from an impaired spring and river which are in recovery.
Instead of sustaining Ginnie Springs and the Santa Fe River, they are further depleting resources deemed an Outstanding Florida Water and Outstanding Florida Spring — to make money.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum are board members of Our Santa Fe River Inc.