Wendy Graham, Director of the University of Florida Water Institute, has put together another successful Duke Energy/IFAS (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at UF) -sponsored symposium encompassing a multitude of topics related to water.
The well-organized gathering had six themes simultaneously presented each with five 20″ sessions with papers on related topics. Each morning of the two-day session had keynote speakers, and on the final day there was a closing plenary panel.
Fortunately, all the meeting rooms were close together so that session hopping was easily accomplished. As one might expect, green algae and its toxicity was a popular topic, and the message to take home is that we are just now learning of the harm it can do to human health. Surprisingly, it is found worldwide in Sweden, Klamath River (Oregon,) Guatemala, China and Lake Titicaca, as well as in salt water. Some of the papers were hard science requiring a knowledge of chemistry, physics and/or biology to understand.
Some revealed new threats, such as the paper by Brian Lapointe on sargassum, whose proliferation is thought to be caused by our nemesis the nitrates.
Some overall observations on the conference:
Highly successful and useful for scientists to share information, and this includes university researchers as well as water management districts and government agencies.
However, there is another large body of individuals working equally hard for the environment but who are not as visible. These are members (often volunteers) of groups such as Sierra Club, Our Santa Fe River, Ichetucknee Alliance, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Institute, Florida Springs Council and our WaterKeepers.
Sadly, it seems that of the dozens and dozens of participants, we could identify only one, Matanzas RiverKeeper Jen Lomberk, who fits into this category. An apt quote from Jen: “Science should influence policy, not the other way around.” This protocol is absolutely not followed by some water management districts and environmental protection agencies. Sadly and absolutely.
Duke Energy and IFAS can of course do what they want with their own symposium, we only lament that this is an important facet of our water topic that is not represented, and no one can deny that these groups have a lot to offer.
Our most serious concern is not unexpected — those who follow our posts know by now of our perhaps over-simplified conclusion that most of our water ills in Florida, (at least North Florida) stem from over-pumping our rivers and over-use of fertilizer.
Very seldom during the two-days did I hear the words over-pumping, but quite often people said fertilizer from agriculture was a principal source of nitrates. Yet regulating AG.’s use of fertilizer is never a consideration, it is accepted as the contemporary status quo. People jump right past the source and go right into their solutions.* They spend lots of work devising little Band Aids to treat the symptom, but are afraid to attack the source.
And understandably so, because we are not there yet, but that battle will be fought, even though we are not enemies. As we have said, the battle is not between environmentalists and polluters, it is a battle for survival for all of us. Hopefully that issue will be settled before we are dead from our own poisons or lack of drinking water.
OSFR was represented by President Mike Roth and your historian, both of whom spoke during the comments periods, thus name dropping for our organization.
*Allow us to add a case in point: an interesting paper’s thesis was that restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) is made difficult by four factors: algae accumulation, recreation (over-use,) excessive manatee grazing and hydrological events such as hurricanes. The speaker accepted the algae problem without mentioning that this algae is present because of over-pumping/reduced flow and excessive nutrients, two man-made problems that should not exist.