Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

Be Informed.

Water Supply Plan Has Major Flaws


The Gainesville Sun has published the following excellent article dealing with the Water Supply Plan for North Florida, which we have spoken about here on previous posts.  This plan has received criticism from most environmentalists not connected with the water management districts.  Most feel the plan wants it both ways -they want to continue to pump groundwater at the same rate that is now killing the springs, but at the same time, fulfill all water needs.

Dr. Still’s plan to replenish and save wetlands is excellent and necessary, and in addition, many environmentalists, would also put emphasis on over-pumping and over-use of fertilizers and septic tanks.    OSFR also believes that charging everyone for water is an inevitable solution which someday will be reality.

Go to this link to see Dr. Still’s complete article.

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


Water supply plan has major flaws

By Paul Still

Special to The Sun

Dr. Paul Still


CONSERVE WATER – Turn off the tap as much as possible in every activity such as bathing, cleaning, irrigating, and washing. Click here for more ideas.

The draft Water Supply Plan for North Florida turns out to be yet another case where the quality of the plan is sacrificed so a bureaucratic box can be checked. The plan has major flaws and does not meet the requirements for a water supply plan established in Florida statutes. It fails to identify sufficient projects to address the needs identified in the plan and fails to cover at least a 20-year planning period.

Up to this point, the water management districts and the environmental community have failed to develop an understanding of the water budget for our region. The amount of water pumped out of our aquifers is a very small part of our region’s water budget. If we continue to focus on what we pump out, we will never be able to address the issue of declining aquifer levels.

The water budget is very similar to a financial budget. You have income in the form of rain and water that flows into our region in the rivers and streams. You have losses in the form of water returned to the atmosphere as evaporation and transpiration, or in the form of runoff from rivers and streams into the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean.

Water from springs also flows to the ocean or gulf either in surface water or from springs that discharge under the ocean or gulf. The water we pump from our aquifers goes into the atmosphere, flows to the ocean or gulf, or returns to the aquifer system and surface soils.

The water in the aquifer system is like a longterm CD and the water in lakes and wetlands is like a savings account that is used to purchase new CDs. Prior to 1900, little water was withdrawn from our aquifer CD and the wetlands, lakes and rain kept making deposits. The only significant withdrawal from the aquifer CD was the flow in our springs.

As our region was settled and developed, wetlands were drained to allow for agricultural and other development. Where those drainage projects moved water into streams and rivers that flowed to the ocean or gulf, the rainwater was no longer being deposited into the aquifer CD. As a result, the deposits into the aquifer CD declined.

With settlement, our landscape also changed. We harvested the vast expanses of widely separated pine trees where under-story plant growth was controlled by wildfires. Significant parts of the harvested areas were planted with 700 to 800 pine trees per acre and fire was keep out of the forests.

While we need to use conservation and reduce water use, the basic problem is not how much we are withdrawing from the aquifer account. The problem is we have reduced the deposits into the aquifer account.

The most cost-effective way to protect our aquifer resources is to restore wetlands and prevent the continuing destruction of existing wetlands. A planning tool that could be used would be to require all development to replace 110 percent of any aquifer recharge lost because of the development. Wetlands restoration can also reduce nutrients entering lakes, rivers and aquifers.

Time is critical in addressing water issues and funding projects that do not address the fundamental problems waste resources. As time passes, solutions become more difficult and costly to implement.

The Orange Lake Basin Management Action Plan is an example of this flawed approach. That plan has resulted in no improvement in nutrient loading. It is likely the Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan will also fail to improve water quality.

The rush to complete the lower Santa Fe River MFL has simply delayed any meaningful recovery for five years. The draft Water Supply Plan will likely delay meaningful recovery of water resources in our region for five years and possibly forever.

As development in our region progresses, opportunities to address water issues are lost. Once large landholdings are subdivided, the chances of restoring large tracts of wetlands can be lost.

This Water Supply Plan for North Florida may be our last chance to establish a plan that protects the environment and addresses the development that will occur in our region. Spending an extra six months to correct the flaws in the plan may be the only way we can protect our region’s water resources. — Paul Still lives in Starke.

*Photo by Brad McClenny, Gainesville Sun

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