The following white paper was written by OSFR and will be submitted to the Governing Boards of both the Suwannee River and the St Johns River districts.
Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) White Paper
On 2016 Status of Santa Fe River, Springs and Aquifer
Going back many decades, over-pumping of groundwater in North Florida has resulted in significant declines in the Floridan Aquifer (water quantity) which combined with increases in the flow of toxins from fertilizer and residential septic tanks (water quality) has created an unacceptable situation in the Santa Fe River, its springs and drinking water as of this date. The Santa Fe River has been declared an Outstanding Florida Water (OFW) by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and, as such, should be designated worthy of special protection because of its natural attribute. OSFR feels this “protection” has not been met for the Santa Fe River as evidenced by impaired Minimum Flow Levels (MFLs) in the Lower Santa Fe and higher than normal nutrient nitrate levels negatively affecting water quality.
There are now estimated to be more than 26,000 active consumptive use permits (CUPs) in the Suwanee River Water Management District plus an unknown number of private wells that draw from the aquifer. Minimum Flow Levels (MFLs) which were mandated in 1972 to prevent “significant harm” to the river, aquatic life and plant life, should establish the minimum flow required to maintain the status quo but do little to help restore historic healthy flows. These MFLs may have minimized additional extractions via unapproved CUPs in some cases but have not succeeded in the restoration of any springs nor increased the flow to healthy historic levels.
The Santa Fe River is currently 21.1 cfs (cubic feet/second) in deficit and by 2035 (as indicated in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan currently being prepared) an additional 4.4 cfs more is predicted. This is unacceptable and limiting additional CUPs is the only way that restoration will be accomplished.
OSFR therefore requests that the SWRMD District deny new and increased usage CUPs until:
- the 25 monitoring wells are in place and functioning properly
- well monitoring on electric and diesel pumping is established and functioning
- established MFLs are met on the entire river
OSFR acknowledges that the SRWMD has encouraged the development of Best Management Practice programs with the Dept. of Agriculture and that larger numbers of agricultural farms are participating. Nevertheless, OSFR feels strongly that the seven counties on the banks of the Santa Fe River should revise their Land Development Regulations to protect recharge areas from Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs), Fracking Operations and Mining Operations. OSFR also feels that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection needs to restrict permits for wastewater operations for all agroindustrial activities in the recharge areas.
OSFR is also in support of reinstating restrictions and requirements on the cleaning of septic tanks.
OSFR also requests that SWRMD add three environmental seats on the water management board, as mentioned in FL Statutes CH373. This representation has been lacking for a long time and is crucially needed.
OSFR also supports instituting state legislation to charge for well water through tiered billing for all users.