Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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OSFR Cited In Gainesville Sun Article Dealing With SRWMD’s New Wells

In an article by Christopher Curry in the Thursday, Nov 20, 2014  Gainesville Sun dealing with new monitoring wells to be installed by the Suwannee River Water Management District, comments by OSFR president Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson were included.

Her comments praised the endeavor because the new wells will provide better information regarding the status and conditions of the aquifer in various locations throughout the water district.   OSFR had expressed similar thoughts in a previous post at this site when reporting on the last SRWMD governing board meeting.

This article can be read online at this link, or continue reading for a reproduction here.  OSFR acknowledges the generosity of the Gainesville Sun for allowing us to re-publish its article in full.

Water district adding 25 more wells to monitor aquifer

Officials said the additional wells will give them more insight into what’s happening in the aquifer.

Carlos Herd

By Christopher Curry
Staff writer
The Suwannee River Water Management District plans to pump about $4 million into additional groundwater monitoring wells to get a more complete and accurate picture of the impact of pumping on aquifer levels and how water flows underground.

The district’s Governing Board approved the $3.95 million to add 25 well locations on Nov 12.

Water Supply Division Director Carlos Herd said the district currently has about 225 wells, but some are spaced far apart, leading to an incomplete picture of what’s going on in the aquifer.

“We’re filling gaps,” Herd said. “We’re looking at our existing groundwater monitoring network, and we have holes in it. We really need to figure out what’s going on in the groundwater system, and this is a huge effort to improve our monitoring network.”

The plan’s roots date back to 2010 when four separate regions of the district were declared water resource caution areas, meaning areas in which groundwater supplies were not expected to meet future demands. That same analysis also said that groundwater pumping in South Georgia and the area of northeastern Florida in the St. Johns River Water Management District might be drawing down the aquifer and impacting springs and rivers in the Suwannee district.

Wendy Graham, the director of the University of Florida Water Institute, said more wells mean more data on how pumping changes aquifer levels, the direction water flows underground and better information to use in the computer groundwater models that simulate and predict aquifer conditions. Graham said accurate data and groundwater models are more important in this time, when it has become clear that groundwater pumping in one area does not recognize the “artificial” boundaries that separate states and water management districts.

Right now, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns and Suwannee water districts are in the process of creating a new groundwater model that covers a large area of North Florida and South Georgia.

The 25 monitoring well locations will stretch from the Georgia state line, where four are planned, south to Levy County.

Besides aquifer levels, some wells might measure pollution levels in the form of nitrates.

“Each well will monitor a specific zone (surficial, intermediate, or upper Floridan),” Herd said in an email. “Some sites may include three wells, one for each zone. We will have the ability to monitor water levels and water quality from any of the proposed wells. Water quality may not be performed on every well; this would depend on the location and zone monitored.”

The projected $3.95 million costs include about $200,000 for land. Herd said the district will look for long-term leases or easement agreements but might purchase some property.

The remaining $3.75 million covers projected costs for well installation and testing during the installation process.

Herd said the district expects it will take three years for all the wells to be in place.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, president of the environmental group Our Santa Fe River Inc., praised the district for advancing the well-monitoring plan. She said with serious concerns about water quality and water quantity in the region, the additional wells will increase and improve the information available on the condition of the aquifer.

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