Riverkeeper unhappy with plan to draw water from river

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Central Florida is running out of drinking water and there is a proposed plan to take a lot of water out of the St. Johns River. Those charged with protecting theriver inNortheast Florida are up in arms about the new plan.

The Central Florida Water Initiative wants to pump 150 million gallons of water out of the St. Johns River each day.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool holds around 600,000 gallons of water. One hundred fifty million gallons would fill 227 Olympic pools. It would fill 3,000,000 bathtubs that hold about 50 gallons of water.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman is not pleased with the plan at all, saying it will bring more problems, caused by more sewage runoff from nearby septic tanks being drawn into the river.

"It will cause more damage done to fisheries, more damage done to our submerged grasses, and it just continues to make existing problems even worse, and we see more issues with increased salinity. It is a domino effect and it will make the damage that unfortunately has been done to the river even worse and harder to solve."

Rinaman said the damage done to the river will have to be undone by someone, and that will fall on the backs of local taxpayers.

Joe Sheahan is a boater and has been learning a lot about the river lately, and he is concerned the plan could increase the algae bloom problem we have seen in the past in Northeast Florida waters.

"The increased algae blooms would really take away from the enjoyment of the river, when they get bad enough you can't even go boating, much less fishing. I am not a fisherman, but learning how. It is going to take away from a lot of the enjoyable aspects of the river."

Rinaman agrees and said the recent algae bloom issues aren't getting better.

"This past year was one of the most toxic seasons on record for green slime in the St. Johns, so there are already uphill battles in regards to restoring the St. Johns River, and these tremendous amounts of water being withdrawn from the river will only make that a higher hill to climb."

She says taking that much water out of the river causes it to flow even slower, as it already is a "lazy river."

"It reduces the flow of the river, and when you reduce the flow of the river, it only increases the pollution problems we are having today, and makes the toxic algae blooms more frequent, increases salinity, pulling in more salt water and it damages habitat the river provides to animals and fish, and really creates a water quality problem," added Rinaman.

Rinaman said other alternatives should be looked at before taking so much water out of the river.

"We need aggressive mandatory water conservation measures and that is something we all need to play a role in, us as citizens, local government, the state government, the water management districts. Unfortunately we are not being aggressive enough. The best, most sustainable way to solve this problem is with aggressive water conservation."

She said there are ways residents can help conserve water and every bit helps. She suggests using native plants that require little water and no fertilizer and, use less fertilizer on lawns. She also said to use low flow appliances, spend less time in the shower, and turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth.

Rinamansaid if everyone did that, it would make a huge difference in our state.

While the Central Florida plan calls for taking 150 million gallons of water a day out of the river, a plan being looked at by the St. Johns River Management District is in the works that calls for pulling 125 million gallons out of the river in Northeast Florida. That plan will be explained and a public meeting held in Jacksonville on February 6th at the City Council chambers. It will be held at 5 p.m., lasting until 7 p.m. that evening.


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