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Conservation, NOT River Withdrawals

Conservation, NOT River Withdrawals

Central Florida is already reaching the sustainable limits of its predominant source of water, the Floridan Aquifer.  As a result, the three water management districts in this five county area - the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), South Florida Water Management District and Southwest Florida Water Management District - created the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) to identify alternative sources of water to meet demand.

In 2015, the CFWI released and approved an updated Draft Regional Water Supply Plan and the 2035 Water Resources Protection and Water Supply Strategies Plan to address future steps toward meeting the water supply needs of the CFWI Planning Area.  Unfortunately, these plans rely heavily on surface water withdrawals and not enough on proven, cost-effective conservation strategies. Of the projected 250 million gallon per day deficit, only 37 mgd is estimated to come from conservation initiatives. This is actually less than 42 mgd that was originally projected in previous drafts.

However, the plans include projects that could remove up to 160 mgd of surface water from the St. Johns River at a cost of up to $1.79 billion. Up to 60 mgd of surface water would come from the Taylor Creek Reservoir and St. Johns River at State Road 520, up to 50 mgd near State Road 46, and 50 mgd near Yankee Lake. This would produce an estimated 134 mgd of finished water.

The Yankee Lake and State Road 46 projects would also require treatment by reverse osmosis (RO). The byproduct, or pollutant, that results from RO is called “concentrate”. The concentrate has a high mineral and/or salt content and would be disposed by injecting it into the Lower Floridan Aquifer. 

In addition, the future water demand and deficit projections are highly inflated, putting unwarranted pressure on communities to pursue expensive infrastructure projects like water withdrawals. The plan begins by estimating demand to be 850 mgd in 2015 and ends in 2035 with 1,083 mgd. However, the actual demand in 2014 was only only 695.7 mgd and 2013 actual was 696 mgd.   If the plan projections started with current actual water use, the 2035 estimates would be significantly less, making conservation options much more attractive.

The surface water withdrawals are also being justified based on the findings of a flawed study by the St. Johns River Water Management District. A group of independent scientists and experts from the National Research Council (NRC) conducted a peer review of the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study (WSIS), indentifying significant shortcomings in the study and expressing concerns regarding many of the conclusions. According to the NRC, “the WSIS operated within a range of constraints that ultimately imposed both limitations and uncertainties on the study’s overall conclusions.”

St. Johns Riverkeeper has serious concerns that these proposed withdrawals would:

  • Worsen existing pollution problems,
  • Increase the frequency of toxic algal blooms,
  • Further reduce flow and increase salinity levels farther upstream, and
  • Adversely impact the fisheries, wildlife and submerged vegetation in and along the St. Johns and its tributaries.

We continue to urge the CFWI to remove surface water withdrawal projects from the water supply plans and focus on conservation and resuse.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Contact the Governing Board and tell them to focus on water conservation, efficiency, and reuse strategies instead of water withdrawals to meet the future water needs of our region. 

St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board:
John Miklos, Chairman            jmiklos@sjrwmd.com
Fred Roberts, Vice Chairman  froberts@sjrwmd.com
Chuck Drake, Secretary           cdrake@sjrwmd.com
Carla Yetter, Treasurer            cyetter@sjrwmd.com
Doug Bournique                      dbournique@sjrwmd.com 
John P. Browning Jr.               John.P.Browning@sjrwmd.com
Douglas Burnett                      dburnett@sjrwmd.com 
Maryam Ghyabi                      mghyabi@sjrwmd.com
Ron Howse                              rhowse@sjrwmd.com

Click here for a factsheet about this issue. 

Why spend billions of dollars and jeopardize the health of our rivers with massive surface water withdrawals when we can meet our future supply needs by using our water resources more responsibly and efficiently? 

The bottom line is that water conservation does work and is without question a much more sustainable, cost-effective and environmentally-responsible solution. Let’s keep the straws out of the St. Johns and the Ocklawaha, quit over-allocating our groundwater, and finally get serious about addressing the root causes of our water use problems.

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