Study contends Santa Fe continues to decline, and the water district allows it.


TTO PHOTO 1 In: Study contends Santa Fe continues to decline, and the water district allows it. | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
OSFR members and river cleaners Trav and Mav Smith with bags of trash on the Santa Fe. It takes volunteers to care for our river not state agencies.

Say what they may, the Suwannee River Water Management District has an “F” grade in protecting the Santa Fe River and  its springs.  It appears  they use models for theories when they have the actual data in front of them, and this allows them to get the numbers they want.

Over the years the river has declined, as any old timer can tell you without looking at a contrived model.  Your writer SCUBA dived in the Santa Fe River beginning in 1977.  And you can bet that the river today is in worse condition. We did not see the algae then that there is today.  We did not break our props on the shoals back then where today the water is more shallow.

Statistics PROVE that the rainfall has been relatively constant over the past century, but the flow of the river and the springs is less.  The only factor that is different is the amount of pumping from the river.

And the District goes on and on with the permits, as we saw last week with Seven Springs.

The SRWMD is not doing its job if the mission is to protect our rivers.  If the mission is to dispense permits and use up the water, then they are doing just great.

As one speaker at the infamous meeting on Seven Springs said, it is hypocrisy for the District to put all kinds of little water-saving tips on their website, and then give away millions of gallons which will go away from the basin.

Hypocrisy indeed it is.

SRWMD will have a hard time refuting their destruction of the Santa Fe River.

Read the original article in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Study contends Santa Fe continues to decline

Springs institute report gets water-agency resistance

Cindy Swirko

Gainesville Sun USA TODAY NETWORK  Feb. 28, 2021

Pumping, pollution and people continue to degrade the Santa Fe River and its springs despite state and regional efforts to restore the system, a new report by the Florida Springs Institute says.

Without increased intervention and regulation, conditions will worsen, the report said, but Institute Executive Director Robert Knight said both will be hard to come by.

“It’s going to take a political solution,” Knight said.

The report was released Monday, the day before the Suwannee River Water Management Governing Board voted to approve a judge’s order that will allow Nestle Waters to get more water out of the aquifer at Ginnie Springs for its bottling plant.

Among the recommendations are decreased pumping locally and in the region, cutting fertilizer use and limits on the number of people who can use some areas for recreation.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation and the district have long recognized that water levels in the Santa Fe system are declining and that pollution — particularly nitrogen — has been increasing.

Minimum flows and levels have been set with the goal of ensuring that enough water exists to maintain the health of the river and springs.

Efforts have been made to try to get farmers and homeowners to reduce fertilizer use, the largest source of nitrogen in the Santa Fe system.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park has put limits on the number of people who can tube down the river to try to prevent trampling of vital aquatic grasses and other harms.

But the study, which included ongoing water sampling for pollutants and levels at several points along the river and springs, contends it is not enough.

Average spring flow over a 100-year period of record has declined by about 200 million gallons of water a day.

Municipal pumping by cities as far as Jacksonville is impacting the Santa Fe, but cities and property owners in the river basin are also sucking up a lot of water.

The report said that 2015 data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows about 45.6 million gallons a day of groundwater was withdrawn in Alachua County. Marion County withdrew 55.7 million gallons a day.

Meanwhile, nitrogen levels have increased by an average of 2,600%, the report said.

“Although protective designations and lawful regulations have been put in place to prevent further harm to the river and springs, nitrogen concentrations still exceed protective levels in the majority of the springs along the Santa Fe River and problems related to flow and reduced water transparency are still evident and getting worse,” the report states….

“Poe is terrible,” Knight said. “Poe was a clear blue water spring when I was a kid.”

Knight said limits on use of Poe are needed.

The county park features the spring and a short run to the Santa Fe, a canoe/ kayak launch and dock, pavilions and a large field for sports and other activities.

It was damaged from Hurricane Irma flooding in 2017 and the spring has been closed since September while a boardwalk through a wetland is rebuilt.

Assistant County Manager Gina Peebles said limits on usage is typically set by the number of parking spots — 120.

Peebles added that COVID-19 restrictions have reduced capacity the past year.

The boardwalk should be completed soon and the spring will once again be open.

Meanwhile, Suwannee River Water Management District spokeswoman Lindsey Covington said in an email that staffers have not completed an in-depth analysis of the report.

However, the district took issue with aspects of it.

“Dr. Knight’s characterization of flow declines is misleading, as he fails to consider factors other than groundwater pumping or withdrawals,” Covington said. “Other factors such as climatic changes (warming in particular), land use changes over the last 90 years, and the hydrogeologic intricacies of the region also play meaningful roles in flow changes.”

The district also disagreed with the institute’s approach to calculating the impacts of groundwater withdrawals on rivers and springs, saying it lacks use of hydrogeologic models critical for the unique complexity of the aquifer.

Knight countered that rainfall variation was considered in the institute’s analysis and by a district study done by a consultant, which states that groundwater pumping is the only significant variable in observed flow declines.

He also accused the district of using “smoke and mirrors” in regard to climatic and land use changes and hydrogenics.

“What is certain is that spring and river flows have declined by about 20% compared to historical records and the only factor that can possibly explain that is the clear rise in groundwater pumping from zero (100) years ago to the current estimated 450 million gallons per day (average) in the region surrounding the Santa Fe River and springs,” Knight said in an email.


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