Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Florida's ‘perfect storm' water crisis

The following op ed by Dr. Bob Knight (Howard T. Odum Springs Institute), is hereby circulated with his permission.  My reason for publishing it is because it reflects a new element of concern in terms of where management of the state’s finite natural resources is headed.  In the past, most battles were fought in the courts before administrative judges where impartiality was respected and, by and large, carefully followed.  The new factor is fear for one’s job within the very agencies charged with executing the system of science and law upon which Florida’s resource management system is founded.  The battle has been shifted to the office workplace. Impartiality has become a liability. 

Our state government has become a system fueled by a toxic brew of intimidation, threat and professional assassination. It is not the way our government should function.  If we cannot rely on agency scientists and administrators to objectively carry out the interests of the public as prescribed by the laws of the land because they fear losing their jobs, it is a dangerous thing that offers no future that will be good.  This is the fruit of an administration that does not know what it is doing, where it is going or the very real consequences this political folly will bring.  Its only focus is re-election driven by raw political ambition and catering to the false promises of an economy of corporate elitism.  Everything else is considered undesirable, unnecessary and expendable.  There are many who believe we’re headed for trouble, and the crowd is growing.                      -Sandspur

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
During an extended drought we tend to think a lot about water.
When we see local springs and rivers running dry (think Hornsby, Poe, and Gilchrist Blue Springs on the upper Santa Fe River) we start to wonder what is next. Our private wells? Our public water supplies?
Then we think: No, that can't happen, our government will take care of us. After all, we pay them taxes and give them jobs so they can look out for our collective good. They have official plans that say we have at least 20 more years before we need to worry about running out of plentiful and healthy groundwater supplies.
Still, a drought seems to sharpen our innate senses: when nature peels away the rainwater inputs during a drought, shouldn't there still be some water left in these springs? Did these springs run dry in the past?
The fact is our springs are not just being stressed by an historic drought. The groundwater aquifer that feeds these springs is being pumped at the highest rate in recorded history. And to add "insult to injury" these springs are being exposed to the highest groundwater nitrate nitrogen contamination ever observed.
These two stresses are creating a "perfect storm" of severe impacts to our precious springs that is appalling to witness. Go visit your favorite spring now and put on a face mask. Look carefully at the clarity of the water, examine the plant life and algae, and study the fish and turtles. I am afraid you will see a sick ecosystem.
That is exactly what I did last weekend, when I snorkeled the lower Ichetucknee River from Dampier's Landing to the U.S. 27 take out. Here is a summary of what I saw: Very low water levels and reduced flow rates, turbid water with less than 30 feet of visibility, eelgrass leaves coated with a thick encrustation of attached algae, long trailing filaments of green algae, areas of thinning vegetation, and largemouth bass with white fungus growing on their heads. It was not a pretty sight.
This shouldn't be happening.
How could the water management districts issue so many groundwater pumping permits that the flow in the Ichetucknee River continues to decline and flows in smaller springs like Poe have essentially stopped?
How could the Department of Environmental Protection set the groundwater nitrate standard so high that the springs that feed the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers have been impaired by nutrient pollution for more than 30 years?
Who was in charge of protecting these state-designated Outstanding Florida Waters?
Is there a public agency that will take responsibility for this environmental negligence? Or will they continue their denial that there is a problem with our groundwater and continue to issue more groundwater withdrawal permits, rather than immediately mandating emergency water use restrictions?
Are the water managers who are tasked with protecting our water bodies and the public's best interests afraid to speak up because they fear losing their jobs?

Robert L. Knight is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. 


  1. Attached is another article in the Ocala newspaper that quotes comments by Charles Lee. Charles' information on the low flows at Silver Springs should be a notice to everyone that something is wrong. This information comes to light at the same time that the SJRWMD is considering a permit for a cattle operation that wants a substantial amount of water (maybe as much as 25 mgd) and who is being represented by Ed de la Parte.
    I will bet that the amount of nutrients coming into Silver Springs has remained constant, but if the flow has diminished by 50%, what do you think has happened with the water quality? It should have doubled if the amount of water has decreased by 50% and the loads remain the same. Of course, all of this problem cannot be laid at the feet of the Scott administration, but it is clearly a problem that does not need to be compounded by the Scott administration.

    Link to article (copy and paste to see):

  2. As the new Executive Director of the District said to staff at his first Employee
    Meeting at the Brooksville are either on board or US41 runs north and south.

  3. We in Marion County are looking at a major slaughter house that is in permitting stage that will be sucking unreal amounts of water from our acquifer, unless stopped by careing individuals. Levy and citrus counties are looking at a mine that has the potential to cause serious damage to the water table, to include overuse of the water, but salt water intrusion to boot. Please raise a yell for our drinking water!!!