Thanks to Lindsey Garland and Ben Glass for explaining SRWMD springs, rivers, and water withdrawals to 300 new people from all over the world on #PaddleGA2019, at Camp Suwannee, Dowling Park, Suwannee County, Florida.
The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) is the largest of five Water Management Districts in Florida, all established 1972. It does water quality and quantity, with scientists, administrators, and policy people.
SRWMD covers fifteen counties in north Central Florida, with thirteen rivers, eleven major, including the Suwannee, Alapaha, and Santa Fe (and Withlacoochee and Ichetucknee).
[More than half of those eleven major rivers are not in the Suwannee River Basin: Aucilla, Wacissa, Econfina, Fenholloway, and Steinhatchee to the west, and Waccasassa to the east.]
Documented SRWMD springs: over 300, that all feed into the Floridan Aquifer. Of those, 21 are first magnitude, with 64 million gallons of water a day.
Although I told them afterwards I did not invite them to grill them with hard questions (I didn’t even ask them if SRWMD has ever denied a water withdrawal permit), the paddlers had some anyway.
The first was more or less how does SRWMD determine use of water withdrawal permits? Answer by Ben Glass: permits are issued for what the user might expect in a one in ten year drought, so for most years use is much less. There is a voluntary monitoring program. “We will delve deeper” if needed.
What about effects on natural ecosystems? They try to plan for that and mitigate any effects.
What about mineral rights under the land? They would have to research that one.
They have water quality stations, with real time data on their website, as well as water levels:
Is there shale oil under Florida? They couldn’t answer that. [Yes, there is, at least shale gas, which is why for five years Floridians Against Fracking has tried to get the legislature to ban fracking in Florida.]
What is SRWMD’s position on fracking, which would affect water quality? They’d have to check, but “it would go through our regulatory process like any other industry.”
What about wastewater discharges and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)? SRWMD supports FDEP, which is the equivalent of GA-EPD. FDEP does the permitting of water coming out into the river. If it’s a withdrawal from the ground, SRWMD permits that.
What about stormwater? SRWMD does a lot of projects capturing stormwater and trying to get it to recharge the aquifer.
They sought out the questioners later, to give them cards for followup.
Here’s the WWALS video:
Thanks to SRWMD Communications and Organizational Development Chief Katelyn Potter for arranging for these speakers to come, after I showed up in the SRWMD office that same morning. See also her fascinating presentation public relations research presentation at a recent SRWMD board meeting, which showed that what people care about is, first, Springs Preservation, followed by Water Quality, Recreation, Water Supply, and Agriculture Business Use.
As they said, Edwin McCook of SRWMD had already spoken on a previous day, about the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and its River Camps.
Thanks to #PaddleGA2019 leader Joe Cook and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Peck Stricker for their patience.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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