Silver Springs Is Drying UP

Dr. Robert Knight gave a lecture to a capacity crowd at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala on Tues.  Andy Fillmore has written an article about it in today’s Gainesville Sun, December 17, 2014.  Dr. Knight is the director of the Silver Springs Institute and president of the Silver Springs Alliance.  He also sits on the board of the Ichetucknee Alliance and is a member of OSFR.

“Most of the springs… are down by about 30 percent.  The aquifer is dropping about two inches per year in North Florida,”  Dr. Knight said.   “There is a myth that there is an unlimited supply of underground water.”

The original article can be seen at this link, (page B1) or, continue reading in this post for a reproduction of the article in its entirety.  OSFR is grateful to the Gainesville Sun for permission to re-publish Andy Fillmore’s article.

Silver Springs ‘drying up,’ water advocate says in lecture”

By Andy Fillmore
Correspondent

OCALA — Robert Knight, an environmental scientist and springs researcher from Gainesville, told a capacity crowd at a lecture Tuesday that unless current trends are reversed, Silver Springs could be reduced to a dried up algae bowl in as little as 15 years.

“Silver Springs is dying before our eyes. There is a myth that there is an unlimited supply of underground water,” Knight said.

Knight spoke at the latest installment of evening lectures at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala.

Knight, 66, grew up in Jacksonville and now lives in Gainesville. He said he has visited Silver Springs since 1953 and did his doctoral work there. He is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and president of the Silver Springs Alliance (www. silverspringsalliance.org). Some of the historically largest springs in the world are located in North Central Florida, Knight indicated.

Knight displayed pictures taken in an area of the Silver River over a number of years that showed a deterioration in the clarity of the water.

He said he’d like to see a revitalization of Silver Springs and have it return as a tourist-drawing “economic engine” for the area.

Groundwater pumping from the aquifer to satisfy needs including residential developments and commercial concerns, especially since 1980, have, “like a checking account balance,” drawn more from the aquifer than rain can replace, Knight contended.

“We are suffering from our own development, our own footprint,” he said.

Knight explained that springs are an “early warning system” of the health of the aquifer, like water overflowing from the top of a filled bucket. Knight has studied numerous North Central Florida springs, including Poe Springs in northwest Alachua County, which he claimed has “stopped” flowing.

“Most of the springs … are down by about 30 percent. The aquifer is dropping about two inches per year in North Florida,” he said.

He cited a drop in output of Silver Springs from about 500 million gallons a day to about 300 million gallons per day in roughly the last 50 years and pointed out that White Springs about an hour north of Gainesville has dried up.

Knight made it clear he feels state government has failed to act even when “laws have been in place since 1972” to protect water resources. He indicated that business concerns are attracted by “free water.”

“People just don’t know about the issue and the state won’t ’fess up. (State government) just keeps kicking the can (the water issue) down the road. They are in denial,” he said.

Knight said that homeowner lawn watering accounts for “about one fourth” of the groundwater pulled out of the aquifer and said stopping the lawn and shrub watering would have a measurably positive impact.

People should stand up to homeowner associations that insist on continued lawn watering, he said.

Knight said he served as an expert witness in the request by businessman Frank Stronach for water to operate Adena Springs cattle ranch in eastern Marion County.

“I’m very opposed to (allowing) it. The Department of Environmental Protection is still reviewing this, and a decision is due in January,” he said.

Stronach’s request stood at 13 million gallons daily for some time but was reduced to 5.3 million gallons daily and may be dropped to 1.5 million gallons daily.

Knight said “public pressure” caused the initial requests to be lowered.

Lecture attendee and former governor Kenneth “Buddy” MacKay said he “agrees strongly” that the state government is not informing the public about water protection issues and not enforcing water protection regulations.

“Robert Knight has a lot of courage and idealism. Protection of Silver Springs is a Marion County issue, and if anything brings Marion County together, it should be this,” MacKay said.

Gainesville Sun

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