Wednesday, July 29, 2015 @ 6 pm
The program will begin at approximately 6:15 pm.
The River House at Jacksonville University
2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville 32211
Central Florida wants to siphon the St. Johns to fuel further unsustainable growth. Learn about the plans to withdraw millions of gallons of water a day from our river.
Speakers include Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and Dr. Quinton White, Jr., Executive Director of JU's Marine Science Research Institute.
Central Florida is reaching the sustainable limits of its predominant source of water, the Floridan Aquifer, with average total water use expected to continue to increase from approximately 800 million gallons a day (mgd) to about 1,100 mgd in 2035. 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 May 2015, the CFWI released 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. 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 the 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.
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.
According to the CFWI, 120 presentations and nine workshops were held from 2012 through 2014 "to educate the public and interested stakeholders and to receive comments about the process and the plans being developed." Unfortunately, very little effort was made to educate and involve community leaders, elected officials, and the general public outside of Central Florida, despite the fact that communities downstream would potentially be impacted by the proposed surface water withdrawals from the St. Johns. The CFWI did not organize a public meeting in Northeast Florida until June 29, 2015, only a month prior to the July 31st public comment period deadline. At that meeting, surface water withdrawals were not even mentioned, until St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman raised the question.
As a result, St. Johns Riverkeeper is hosting this forum to raise awareness about the proposed water withdrawals and shortcomings of the CFWI plan and to engage the community in a public dialogue about this important issue.
Even if you can't attend the forum, please submit your comments to the CFWI regarding the Draft Regional Water Supply Plan and the Draft 2035 Water Resources Protection and Water Supply Strategies Plan. Urge the CFWI to remove surface water withdrawal projects from the water supply plans and focus on conservation, reuse, and other more sustainable alternatives.