This plan is a wish list to drink our cup dry and have it full too.
Obvious and well-deserved sarcasm by Jake Fuller is directed today toward the new water plan put forth by the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts. We have made several posts about the plan, and have mentioned that the only support for the plan comes from those who helped write it and those large water users who benefit from it. Independent and unbiased water scientists such as Robert Knight and Jim Gross have come out strongly in opposition to the plan.
Such is the case we have today in the following “Speaking Out,” which was written by a utilities engineer. We would agree with some of what is written here, but we part ways when he gives the implication that our water resources are well-managed and healthy.
Mr. Hutton is correct in saying we have saved some water by conservation, but fails to say that over-pumping of groundwater has resulted in a constant and significant lowering of our aquifer over the past decades, and the plan does not provide any reduction in this at all, but relies on conservation of surface water and good practices such as using reclaimed water. Conservation is good, but does not begin to approach our needs right now to stop this decline of the aquifer and reduction of river and springs flow, let alone the projected additional demand in 20 years.
Mr. Hutton says “…we cannot rest on our past successes.” True, because the small successes we have had in conservation have been woefully inadequate. We have major river impairment and deficit, dry springs, a horribly polluted Suwannee River, and these things are not being fixed, yet our plan calls for a continuation of issuing permits, which is what caused these problems.
Not until we see a radical about-face of attitude and a return to reality to stop our over-pumping, will we begin to see a restoration of our springs and rivers. This plan is a wish list to drink our cup dry and have it full too.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Water supply plan is step in right direction
By Rick Hutton
Special to The Sun
On Jan. 17, the St. Johns River and Suwannee River water management districts approved a jointly developed water supply plan for the North Florida region to help guide efforts for meeting this challenge over the next 20 years. Over the course of four years, the two districts engaged with a broad group of stakeholders and developed this plan through an extensive effort that included forecasting needs, analyzing data and developing solutions. The plan includes a new and improved computer model to better understand the complex hydrology of our region.
Water supply decisions must be based on sound science so that public and private money is used to obtain real results. Variations in rainfall have a dramatic effect on spring and river flows and lake levels. Determining the effects of pumping, which are small compared to variations in weather, presents a major scientific challenge. The new model will help to better understand the complex hydrology of our region to make informed decisions. This model, and the plan itself, will need to be continually refined as new information is developed. Like all plans, it’s not perfect, but provides an important tool to be used along with ongoing efforts to reduce water demands and replenish our aquifer. The best part is that efforts from utilities, water management districts, agriculture, local governments and other agencies, and individuals like you, have already resulted in significant water savings. Overall, groundwater use in our region has remained relatively flat since 1985, despite a growing population and increased agricultural production.
Water utility customers have become much more efficient in their water use. Eight of the largest water utilities in our region have seen a 28 percent drop in water use per person since 2007.
The net result is that total groundwater pumping by these utilities has decreased by about 18 percent since 2007 despite a 13 percent population increase. This is directly related to water conservation and the use of reclaimed water instead of groundwater for irrigation. Conservation and water reuse is important for securing our future water supply and preserving our natural environment. In Gainesville, wastewater received from our customers is treated and reclaimed for irrigation, industrial cooling, wetland restoration and aquifer recharge. In fact, approximately 70 percent of the water GRU withdraws to serve our customers is returned to the Floridan Aquifer.
However, we cannot rest on our past successes. Although most people are using water more efficiently, we can still achieve more, and there is still much work to do to protect and restore our wonderful natural systems while we continue to meet our water needs.
GRU and other water supply utilities are committed to continue working with water management districts, other stakeholders, and our customers to implement the solutions identified in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan. The North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan is an important step in the right direction, and the water management district staff and stakeholders that participated should be commended for all of their effort.
— Rick Hutton is a senior engineer at Gainesville Regional Utilities and was a member of the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee representing utilities.