“Water for the Future” is the title of Cindy Swirko’s article in the Sun Nov. 28, 2016,but it might better be called “Not Enough Water for the Future.” She writes about the projection for the next 2o years, the results of an exhaustive, 400 plus-page study done over several years jointly by the Suwannee River Water Management District and the St Johns River Water Management District.
As mentioned in the article, OSFR has submitted a report with a request that changes be made. We have posted twice on this subject: OSFR Sends Suggestions for Water Plan on Nov. 22, and Water Supply Plan Workshop on Nov. 3.
Please read our suggestions, expressed by professional geologist Jim Gross. Mr. Gross is not bound by restrictions nor intimidations from the State of Florida, and he gives a professional, objective report.
Most people not affiliated with the water districts will think this plan has good points, but basic flaws because it shows that without fundamental curtailment of groundwater withdrawals, there is not sufficient sustainable supply. There is not even that now in the present, as our aquifer is falling and our springs and rivers are in deficit.
We urge you to follow the link in the article below to read the report from the water management districts, and then to submit comments to the water management districts as they request. This is extremely important The report itself is only around 60 pages, and the rest is appendices.
Below are excerpts, but go to this link for the entire article.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Water for the future
Districts have plans to increase supply, but there are critics
By Cindy Swirko
The Ichetucknee and lower Santa Fe rivers have less water than they need to support the life in them — water and life that lures people to swim, paddle kayaks and catch fish.
White Springs, once a thriving resort full of visitors soaking up the presumed health benefits from its sulphurous pool, doesn’t have enough water to attract an otter.
And the volume of water in other springs is in jeopardy, too — the aquifer isn’t bubbling up as much as it used to in some spots because it’s increasingly pumped out by utilities, homeowners, businesses and agriculture.
Meanwhile, more people are expected to flood into North Florida from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf coast. They are expected to use a lot of water — 667 million gallons of water (mgd) a day by 2035, up from today’s usage of a little more than 551 mgd.
Trying to fill the conflicting needs of the ecosystems of springs, rivers and lakes with the needs of both the current and future populations for water is the basis of a proposal to govern water supplies through 2035.
Officials with the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts, who joined to develop the plan, believe it will provide enough water for both.
They believe added conservation measures and greater use of reclaimed water will lead to success.
“The … really big source that we’re looking to expand is reclaimed water. We are going to reuse the water we are already using and get a lot more benefit out of it by using it for irrigation, recharge and those types of activities,” said John Fitzgerald, regional water supply planning coordinator for the St. Johns River Water Management District. “There is a diversity of projects. First and foremost, conservation and reclaimed are the two big ones that we are going to.”
But environmental advocates, including Jim Gross, are not entirely buying it.
Gross used to work for that water management district and now works for the Florida Defenders of the Environment and as a technical adviser to the group, Our Santa Fe River.
Proposals in the plan to move water from one water body when its flow is high to recharge the aquifer or to a storage area for release when water levels are low is a shell game rather than a solution, he said.
“The plan fails to fully characterize the extent and magnitude of the problem,” Gross said. “Some of the water resource development projects … are a little better than smoke and mirrors. They have little or no potential to alleviate water resource problems.”
Florida’s underground aquifer is the source of most of the region’s drinking water. The aquifer is also the source of water in its plentiful springs. The springs, in turn, provide water for rivers, including the Ichetucknee, Suwannee, Santa Fe and St. Johns.
The water management agencies’ plan is their first stab at joint water planning. It came about because water usage by the populous Atlantic Coast in the St. Johns district — imagine straws stuck in the ground by municipal utilities along the coast — was sucking aquifer water from under the Suwannee River water management district territory.
Boundaries of Florida’s five water management districts are set by hydrological conditions based on the directional flow of water. Most of eastern Alachua County is in the St. Johns district while the west is in the Suwannee River district.
The area with overlapping impact is in the Suwannee River basin and White Springs, which is now within the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.
An estimated 47 million gallons a day used to flow from it, but the spring itself is now all but dry.
Without state action, the aquifer will be tapped out as well, as illustrated several years ago in a visual projection of future water use. It showed an area called the “Big Blue Amoeba” — a blob depicting depleted groundwater that ballooned from the Atlantic coast to inland areas south of the Florida/ Georgia line.
As the population grows, consumption will too.
Water consumption in the St. Johns district — which includes Duval, St. Johns and Clay counties — was more than 419 million gallons a day in 2010. It is expected to increase to 490 mgd in 2035.
In the Suwannee River district, 131 million gallons a day was pulled from the aquifer in 2010 with a projected rise to 177 mgd in 2035.
The portion of Alachua County in the St. Johns district in 2010 used 28 mgd. That’s expected to increase to 36 mgd by 2035. The volumes for the Suwannee River district part of the county are 22 mgd in 2010 and remain at about 22 in 2035.
To make sure rivers, springs and lakes have enough water to support their ecosystems, minimum flows and levels are being set for each.
So far, the lower Santa Fe River and the Ichetucknee are below the minimum levels, so several recharge projects are planned to try to bring them up to acceptable levels and keep them there.
The Suwannee district, for example, is working with the city of High Springs to develop a reuse plan for treated wastewater that includes building a storage facility and transmission lines.
Carlos Herd, the Suwannee River district’s water supply division director, said he’s confident the projects will work.
“We have a recovery strategy that has been developed for the Santa Fe and the Ichetucknee. We will have an additional amount of water we will need to make up in that 20 years,” Herd said. “We’ve incorporated the recovery strategy projects into the plan and additional projects to make up for the existing deficit plus the additional deficit that will happen.”
Some officials and environmentalists say the price of water will rise as it becomes a more rare commodity.
Agriculture and other big users must get permits from the water management districts. Herd said that if conservation measures are not included in those applications, the permit could be jeopardized.
Herd said the water supply plan was never intended to provide regulatory prescriptions, such as mandating particular conservation measures.
Pam Smith, president of Our Santa Fe River, said a positive of the plan is that the two agencies are working together on the region’s water supply.
But she fears the lack of regulations will jeopardize the effort.
“I would have liked to see some regulatory action right now to restore (the lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee) to the correct levels before projecting out for additional demand over the next 20 years,” Smith said. “If they were to temporarily put a moratorium on water permits now, we could at the very least try to get to a point where our river would not be in jeopardy prior to the next 20 years going forward.”
The plan and more information about the effort is available at http://northfloridawater. com/. Public comment on the plan will be taken until Dec. 5. It is set to be finalized and considered for approval in early 2017.
*A diver moves down through the Blue Hole at Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Fort White on March 9. The Ichetucknee River currently does not have enough water to support its ecosystem. ALAN YOUNGBLOOD/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/FILE