While the official comment period has ended, we still encourage you to express your concerns regarding the Central Florida Water Supply Plan and the SJRWMD District Water Supply Plan. Let them know that you oppose water withdrawals from the St. Johns and support for more sensible conservation strategies. See contact information below.
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TWO PLANS EQUAL BAD NEWS FOR ST. JOHNS RIVER
Central Florida is already reaching the sustainable limits of its predominant source of water, the Floridan Aquifer, with water use expected to continue to increase from 772 million gallons a day (mgd) in 2010 to over 1,246 mgd in 2035. As a result, the three water management districts in this five county area – the St. Johns River Water Management District, 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.
Recently, the CFWI released a Draft Regional Water Supply Plan that relies heavily on surface water withdrawals from the St. Johns River. The plan calls for withdrawing over 150 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns at an estimated cost of nearly $1.5 billion.
In addition, the SJRWMD is on the verge of adopting the District Water Supply Plan (Plan) for all of the 18 counties within its jurisdiction. The District’s Plan calls for the withdrawal of more than 64 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns and up to 86 million gallons from one of its most important tributaries, the Ocklawaha River.
The surface water withdrawals are 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.
Many of these withdrawals 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 could be discharged back into the river, creating additional pollution problems.
Instead of siphoning millions of gallons of water a day from our rivers, Central Florida should be focused on aggressive conservation and efficiency measures. Unfortunately, both water supply plans downplay the potential of conservation to meet future demand. The Draft Regional Water Supply Plan determined that only “3.9 percent of the projected demand for 2035 can be eliminated by water conservation.” Irrigation is responsible for over 50% of total residential water use and leaks account for 10% of indoor use. Clearly, opportunities exist for significant reductions in water use, and future demand can be met with conservation at far less expense.
Previously, The St. Johns River Water Management District determined that nearly 288 million gallons of water could potentially be saved with a $1.6 billion investment in conservation.
The current draft District Water Supply Plan estimates a potential water conservation savings of up to 190 million gallons of water per day (mgd) and a potential for the increased reuse of wastewater of 156 mgd. This is more than enough to meet projected deficits, without the need for risky withdrawal projects.
In addition, the Central Florida Plan only estimates the potential of water conservation “based on voluntary consumer actions, with encouragement through education, and a level of financial incentives…” Voluntary measures alone are not sufficient. Water pricing strategies and mandatory requirements must also be implemented and enforced to achieve maximum conservation and efficiency benefits.
Unfortunately, our limited public resources are being directed towards finding expensive new sources of water, such as surface water withdrawals and desalination, before we have addressed the root causes of our water supply problems and exhausted all opportunities to use existing water resources more efficiently.
Despite the looming water shortages and call for new sources of supply, our state water management districts also continue to issue frivolous consumptive use permits (CUP) that will further deplete our aquifer. For instance, late last year the SJRWMD approved a permit from California-based Niagara Bottling to nearly double groundwater withdrawals for its water bottling facility in Lake County to 910,000 gallons of water a day – an 88% increase.
The bottom line is that water conservation does work, can potentially meet most if not all of our water supply needs, and is much more cost-effective and environmentally-responsible. However, we must finally begin to demonstrate the will and commitment to make it happen. Instead, our leaders and public officials tasked with protecting our water resources continue to pay lip service to conservation, while doubling down on expensive alternative water supply sources that pose significant long-term threats to our environment and our economy.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Tell the water planners and our elected leaders “NO” to water withdrawals! Instead, ask them to prioritize, implement and enforce aggressive, mandatory conservation programs and policies.
CFWI Regional Water Supply Plan
Tom Bartol, St. Johns River Water Management District
SJRWMD District Water Supply Plan
Jim Gross, St. Johns River Water Management District
SJRWMD Governing Board
Click here to send sample e-mails to Board members.
Governor Rick Scott
Florida House of Representatives
- Adopt a resolution. If you are a member of a civic or business organization, request a resolution opposing water withdrawals from the St. Johns. We have sample resolutions we can provide. Contact Lisa@stjohnsriverkeeper.org for more information.
- Conserve water. Do your part by conserving and using water as efficiency as possible.
Learn how at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/river-friendly