Freshwater animals and plants near the mouth of the St. Johns River could die off if central Florida is allowed to pull water from the river to keep up with the population growth there, a Jacksonville Times-Union article says. If the St. Johns Water Management District and water utilities allow it, up to 262 millions gallons per day could be pulled from the St. Johns River, the article says. Salt water from the Atlantic Ocean would probably creep farther into the river, meaning more shrimp but fewer crabs, and more dredging to keep the busy Jacksonville-area shipping lanes open. It would also mean a higher price for central Florida water customers to pay, as treating the river water would be more expensive.
The water district says it’s just a 4.9% reduction in flow, and if plans go forward, construction to pull the water from the river would start in 2009.
However, scientists and groups like St. Johns Riverkeeper are concerned about the overall effect on the river and the whole idea of “trying to harness nature.” And Marion County commissioners recently butted heads with the water district over use of the Ocklawaha (a St. Johns River tributary) to provide water for the region, saying, “The Ocklawaha River should not become the sacrificial lamb of irresponsible growth.”
Tapping into rivers and other sources of water for a broad region isn’t a new idea. Not that long ago, a group of South Florida business types suggested diverting water from northern and central Florida to their area, pulling water from what they saw as a water-rich area to a highly populated part of the state. That idea was shot down, but may not be entirely dead.
We’ll just have to wait to see how this one goes.
Photo from St. Johns Riverkeeper