The flow of Silver Springs, a major source of fresh water for the St. Johns, has declined by over 32% since the 1930's. Yet, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) recently announced a plan, called a minimum flows and levels (MFL), that will allow another 10 million gallons of water a day (mgd) to be withdrawn from the aquifer that feeds the springs, paving the way for more water for Sleepy Creek Ranch. This would result in an additional 2.5% decline in the flow of the Silver Springs, despite flows that have already been below the proposed MFL for 15 of the past 16 years.
The SJRWMD estimates that the historical decline in flow is mostly due to suppression from submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) and long-term rainfall deficit. The agency claims that groundwater pumping is only responsible for about 3.5% of this decline. At a recent public workshop in Ocala, Dr. Robert Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in Gainesville and president of the Silver Springs Alliance, described the SJRWMD's explanations for the decline as "ludicrous" and said the proposed MFL is "an embarrassment to the water district."
Since they project that the withdrawal of an additional 10 mgd would reduce flows below the MFL by 2025, the District plans to artificially recharge the aquifer with treated wastewater and captured stormwater. Nitrate-Nitrogen concentrations in Silver Springs are 25 times higher than historic levels. This "prevention strategy" would potentially add to the nutrient pollution that has already degraded the springs and aquifer.
The bottom line is that this MFL will not protect Silver Springs and the Silver River and prevent further degradation.
Recent news coverage of this issue:
The SRJWMD Governing Board will decide upon the proposed MFL at its April 11 meeting.
You can also send individual emails to the Board members:
John Miklos, Chairman email@example.com
Fred Roberts Jr., Vice Chairman firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Drake, Secretary email@example.com
Ron Howse, Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Bournique email@example.com
John P. Browning Jr. John.Browning@sjrwmd.com
Douglas Burnett firstname.lastname@example.org
Maryam Ghyabi email@example.com
Carla Yetter firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Shortelle, Executive Director email@example.com