Scary and hard-hitting editorial by Nathan Crabbe in today’s Gainesville Sun, describing potential water woes which could hit Florida if our state and local governments don’t heed the obvious signs and warnings which are upon us.
Mr. Crabbe and the Gainesville Sun gave OSFR permission to reproduce in its entirety this fine editorial, which follows here. We appreciate this permission and if you want to see the original in today’s Sun, follow this LINK.
Editorial: Water warnings
Published: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 11, 2014 at 1:27 p.m.
We have been warned — and warned and warned. It goes like this: If Floridians don’t quit pumping and polluting their water to excess, there will be real consequences that will be difficult to overcome and could endanger the state’s economic future.
If the threat sounds exaggerated, just take a look at two major national events that have been in the news, both involving water.
Most recently, the people of Toledo, Ohio, had their water supply shut off for two days because of a massive algae bloom in Lake Erie, which the city depends on for its drinking water. The bloom was not only huge but, because it was so concentrated, it was toxic as well and made the drinking water unsafe.
The principal culprit, according to scientists evaluating the mess, is runoff from farms. Household fertilizer and municipal stormwater runoff also contributed.
What’s happening on Lake Erie happens all over Florida, just not on that big of a scale. When nitrates continue to flow into surface waters in large volumes, they will produce algae — lots of algae. We only need to look at our once-glistening springs to see the effects of nitrates on waterways.
The other story regarding water supply that is relevant locally — anywhere, actually — is the study done of the Colorado River Basin by NASA and the University of California, Irvine. After 14 years of drought, researchers used NASA satellites to measure all the water within the basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states.
What the researchers found was that between 2004 and 2013, the basin lost about 53 million acre feet of water — twice as much as the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam. A whopping 40 million acre feet of that came from the aquifer.
The obvious lesson is that when scientists tell us we are overpumping and are nearing the aquifer’s sustainable pumping capacity, we should listen and begin making lifestyle, business and policy changes. The people who monitor the Colorado River Basin water supply knew the water supply was drastically low, but when the NASA technology measured it accurately, one of the researchers summed up the findings, saying, “We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this is shocking.”
It is not hard to imagine either the Lake Erie disaster or the Colorado River Basin crisis occurring here in our own state, in our own community.
Unless our state and local governments begin implementing serious water protection policies — fertilizer restrictions, water permit limits and mandatory conservation measures, for starters — it is possible, even likely, Florida could become both Lake Erie and the Colorado River Basin. We have been warned — again.