FLORIDA SPRINGS COUNCIL RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT DRAFT NORTH FLORIDA REGIONAL WATER SUPPLY PLAN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Dan Hilliard President,
Florida Springs Council
Heather Obara, Esq.
Secretary-Treasurer, Florida Springs Council
December 6, 2016
GAINESVILLE, FL – The Florida Springs Council (FSC)—an independent nonprofit coalition of 39 non-governmental organizations representing over 155,000 Floridians—has requested a thorough re-write of the draft North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan released in October 2016. The Council’s comments highlight the plan’s failure to meet legal requirements for the restoration of protective flows and levels on the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers. The Council also provided substantial comments related to water conservation and aquifer re-charge.
The Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts (WMDs) collaborated on the draft plan, which provides estimates of water use and availability through 2035 for 14 counties (over 8,000 square miles) in North Central Florida. The plan creates a new Water Use Caution Area that encompasses areas of both districts and recognizes that the area’s springs and rivers are currently subjected to significant harm due to excessive groundwater pumping.
“Florida law requires that this plan provide reasonable assurances that the water management districts can meet projected water demands and provide for recovery of the minimum flows and levels on the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers,” said FSC President Dan Hilliard. “This plan fails because it relies on questionable and unscientific assumptions about the amount of recovery that can be achieved. The plan doesn’t include information about priorities and funding for recovery of those rivers and their associated springs, it doesn’t provide sufficient incentives for water conservation, and it doesn’t include long-term regulatory strategies. We don’t believe that establishment of a new Water Resource Caution Area alone qualifies as a regulatory strategy.”
The only recovery strategy legally mandated as part of the Water Resource Caution Area is the reuse of domestic wastewater when that reuse is determined to be feasible. The Florida Springs Council believes that a sizable reduction in groundwater pumping is necessary for springs recovery and that universal water fees are the most effective tool to promote water conservation.
“Water conservation has always been the priority of the Council because it’s the cheapest and easiest fix and because we know that water use permits, best management practices and establishment of minimum flows and levels have not halted ongoing damage to our springs and rivers,” Hilliard explained. “Setting effective water use fees would require each WMD to estimate a cap on total water withdrawals, to monitor all water users, and to establish progressive fees while taking care to avoid unintended consequences for smaller family or ‘legacy’ farmers.”
The formal comments by the Council also emphasize the need for sustainable water recharge and the need to avoid use of brackish water that could result in additional saltwater intrusion into the drinking water aquifer.
For more information about the Council’s comments, call Dan Hilliard at 352-527-0023 or Heather Obara at 386-454-2427. A copy of the Council’s comments can be found below and at www.SpringsForever.org.
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