As the article says below, the state has invested millions of dollars trying to rescue Silver Springs, and now will invest thousands more and three years, studying what has already been studied to death. Dr. Robert Knight has written much about this, and, along with other competent scientists, has a simple solution of reducing water withdrawals and nitrates.
Just this year the state has seen fit to give away needlessly huge amounts of water to an already overdrawn spring system
The Ocala Star Banner has written an editorial today, Sept. 13, 2015, about the new study aimed at saving Silver Springs. It can be read here in its entirety.
Editorial: Science enough?
We hope so. But will it spur the legislative and regulatory results necessary to repair and restore Silver Springs, or is it just more stonewalling by Gov. Rick Scott, lawmakers and the water district board?
The St. Johns district’s chief scientist, Ed Lowe, told us the study will build on the foundation of earlier scientific endeavors and aim to provide irrefutable evidence for policy makers and regulators as to the most effective steps — economically and environmentally — to take to save the springs. The earlier studies confirmed and reconfirmed that nitrates and other pollutants coupled with reduced flow caused by overpumping of the aquifer have led to the degradation of Silver Springs.
Studies by the state and water district show that agriculture, septic tanks, stormwater runoff and fertilizers are the leading producers of nitrate loads that cause massive algae blooms in Silver Springs, as well as the rest of Florida’s once pristine springs. Furthermore, the district has conceded, after years of denial, that the Floridan aquifer cannot sustain Marion County’s thirst for water.
“I think the district is realizing we are beyond the point of sustainable use,” Lowe said.
Lowe told us the study will track data from dozens of test wells to try to determine three things:
• Where and when it is most cost-effective to reduce nitrate loads.
• Is reducing nitrate loads alone enough to achieve desired environmental results.
• Are there other factors affecting algae growth in the springs, such as reduced numbers of aquatic “grazers” that feed on it, too-low flows and other pollutants like magnesium and iron.
To its credit, St. Johns and its parent, the Department of Environmental Protection, have invested millions of dollars in recent years in trying to rescue Silver Springs, They have bought land for protective barriers, instituted a Basin Management Plan that urges better practices, turned the springs into a park and invested in utility projects to reduce nitrates flowing into the aquifer.
But there is much more to do. Scott and the Legislature say they want water policy in Florida to be based on sound science. We believe they have enough science to spur new regulations restricting fertilizer use, animal waste management, water consumption and septic tank mitigation. But each is politically volatile.
Maybe this latest study will be the tipping point and provide the irrefutable science the pols say they want. Lowe and Casey Fitzgerald, who leads St. Johns’ Springs Protection initiative, believe it could be. They also believe Silver Springs is the iconic natural asset that can capture not only the politicians’ but the public’s buy-in.
“The science is often looked at as a means of stalling any action, but that’s not the case here,” Lowe told us. “… It’s not a blockade to action; it’s actually the grease that will allow us to get the job done.”
Maybe 50 scientists drilling even deeper will provide enough science to finally spur lawmakers to get serious about repairing and restoring not just Silver Springs but all of Florida’s springs. We can hope.