Last night while making dinner, my ears perked up when I heard ABC News’ report on the water war between Georgia and Florida. (The Web version is different from what was aired because there were other people interviewed last night I didn’t see in the Web version.) I felt frustrated after watching the report because it seemed skewed in favor of Georgia. I recall only one person from the Florida side of the story interviewed last night (which didn’t make it into the Web version). In addition, the report pitted federally endangered mussels and sturgeon in Florida (without even mentioning the Apalachicola River, if I recall correctly) against people in Georgia who just want a drink of water, saying essentially, aren’t people more important than endangered species?
I do believe people are more important than endangered species, of course, but this report didn’t tell the whole story. There’s more at stake than the fish in the river that gets its water from upstream Lake Lanier in Georgia. The whole Apalachicola River ecosystem is at stake. The fresh water from the river that flows into the bay — well, that bay depends on that water, too.
Also, I’d like to hear more about the details of the water restrictions in Georgia. If the restrictions are anything like what I see in my water-restricted community, then I would say, “Yes, saving river ecology downstream is more important than washing your car and allowing municipalities to water concrete sidewalks in the middle of the day when most of the water evaporates anyway.” I’m not saying let Georgia residents be thirsty and dirty — but I am wondering (since ABC News isn’t telling) just what they are doing to conserve water.
The Ocklawaha River will be used to meet the needs of some central Florida counties, but not as many as originally proposed, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. Lake, Marion and Putnam counties will take water from the Ocklawaha, but not also Orange, Volusia or Seminole as originally planned. The article says, however, the same amount of water will still be pulled from the river: up to 90 million gallons per day when flow allows. But one Marion County commissioner claimed the decision as a “half victory,” as with fewer counties taking water from the river will make it easier to discuss how to protect the river, the article says.
The Ocklawaha River’s water is being divvied up among central Florida water utilities, even though Marion County — where the Ocklawaha mainly flows — had said other counties needed to leave the river alone. County commissioners had expressed concern that the river and Marion County’s other water sources like famed Silver Springs were being “sacrificed” because other counties had allowed too much population growth before checking whether there was enough water for all of the people.
Recently, many water utilities are looking for ways to provide water for a thirsty population, and especially now during a period of low rainfall, it seems water conservation is more important than ever.
With less than two months left of our rainy season (hint: it’s the same as hurricane season), many water managers are shaking their heads about Florida’s drought. The dry conditions are visible at the Green Swamp, which is the headwaters for four major rivers, and as the St. Petersburg Times reports, “If the water levels in the Green Swamp are low this late in the rainy season, it foretells a parched spring. It means more water restrictions, more dry lawns, more wildfires.” The article predicts another fight over water.
Last month, I blogged about how people living in the U.S. Virgin Islands use rain barrels for their water supply — and today’s Bradenton Herald reports on Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties pushing the same thing for lawn and garden watering. Collecting rain water for irrigation sounds like a great way to conserve water, and the article also says it cuts down on polluted runoff. Plus, rain water is free! The article includes a helpful link and photos of colorfully painted rain barrels, too.
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
I guess there’s no real news here — but the Tallahassee daily paper the Democrat published an article about the continuing decline of the Apalachicola River as the states of Florida, Georgia and Alabama continue litigation over water supply into the river. The article said it could be another 10 years until the issue of water flow is finalized, and by then it could be too late for the river.
If you’re not familiar with the dispute, it goes something like this: Georgia (and to a lesser extent, Alabama) depends on water from the Chattahoochee River. That river flows into Lake Seminole on the Florida/Georgia border. The Apalachicola River flows out of Lake Seminole and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where the town of Apalachicola sits and is the site of a major oystering industry. When people upriver pull water out, that means less water for the Apalachicola, and Floridians are concerned for the wildlife (like the striped bass the article highlights) and for the health of the Gulf, including the oysters. That’s a simplistic view of the dispute, but there’s the gist of it….
A woman in Zellwood is profiled here for her lawn-free, drought-resistant yard. Apparently, her neighbors aren’t impressed, but the woman says she is doing what she can to conserve water.
I remember once writing an article for a local paper about a woman whose backyard was certified as a wildlife habitat (it was a new thing then, but many people have since gotten their yards certified), and she said to me, “Why are we pouring drinking water on the ground?” She was referring to how many people in urbanized areas of Florida use sprinkler systems to water their lawns. She had gotten rid of her grass to plant native Florida plants that offered food and shelter for wildlife.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has tips on Florida-friendly landscaping.
Would you like to have a lawn-free yard — or do you already have one?