How much water are we taking out? How much water is there to take? Our water managers don’t have the answer to either question. To us it seems that the concern expressed by this editorial as to the amount we are withdrawing, is only half of the issue. The other half is that neither do we know how much is there. Regardless, we are taking out more than is being replaced, and that is why the aquifer is dropping and some springs are drying up.
As one wise manager said, “the springs still have water and the rivers are still flowing” so what is the problem?
Go to this link to see the entire article in today’s Feb. 27, 2017 Gainesville Sun.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Private wells and the unknown
Knowing how much water we Floridians are using is ever more important as water tables fall, lake and spring levels decline, and population and overall concern about our water future grows. So when the St. Johns River Water Management District issued its annual water use report earlier this month, they trumpeted the accuracy and depth of their findings “to ensure a sustainable water supply for future generations.”
Across the 18-county district, which includes parts of Alachua County, the district estimates 1.2 billion gallons of water a day is consumed by some 4.1 million residents.
The largest users — more than half — are the more than 300 public water utilities, followed by agriculture. The district boasted in a Feb. 14 press release that it used more than 8 million measurements and the “more than 2,000 years of collective experience” among its staff to reach its conclusions. Impressive, to say the least.
But the findings also reveal that much of the report’s data are based on educated guesses because many of the agricultural users and all of the so-called “self-supply” consumers — that is, people with private household or farm wells — are based on estimates because Florida does not require meters on private wells, except for the largest users. For example, Sleep Creek Lands, Frank Stronach’s cattle ranch north of Silver Springs, has meters on its wells.
Throughout the water district, which stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando to Vero Beach, there are an estimated 701,000 private wells, which the district estimates use 65 million gallons a day. Yet, they are not sure just how much these self-suppliers really use. Even with many larger “permitted” users — those who use more than 100,000 gallons per day — the district depends on “alternative methods” of measurement when “it is not feasible to meter the source.”
We are confounded by the notion that it is not feasible to meter any water well. All wells have a pipe and certainly can be fitted with some sort of a meter, if only for measuring water consumption.
As it is, the only users where the district, indeed the state, requires meters are public utilities and larger users of more than 100,000 gallons per day, and, inexplicably, even some of those are not metered.
If Florida is serious about measuring its water consumption, the idea that our water managers do not know exactly how much water is being withdrawn from the aquifer daily or yearly is inexplicable.
The resistance to meters by private well owners historically has been they fear it is the first step toward having to pay for water. Well, at the rate Florida is going, and with St. Johns and other water districts increasingly talking about having to tap our rivers and springs for drinking water, that day may be inevitable.
For now, though, that the district cannot tell us with certainty how much water is coming from 700,000 private wells is inarguably poor water policy and certainly does not give confidence that it can “ensure a sustainable water supply for future generations.”
— This editorial was written by the Ocala Star-Banner, one of The Sun’s sister publications.