Springs protection focus of water supply forums

By on October 12th, 2011

Over the years, the Florida Springs have become a hot issue with concerns of their continuous degradation. H.T.Odom Florida Springs Institute Director and Professor Bob Knight talks with WUFT-FM’s Alyssa Averette about the increasing nitrate levels and the threats caused to the Springs.

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Knight: There’s a very widespread reduction in flows in springs and a widespread increase in nitrate concentrations in springs. The flow reduction is due to a combination of causes. The most important one for us is the consumption of groundwater for human uses—for irrigation, agriculture and urban uses. The nitrate contamination is a result of changing land uses and especially fertilization in areas that are highly vulnerable to contamination of groundwater.

WUFT: You mention nitrates. What exactly causes nitrates to become high in the water?

Knight: Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that is in fertilizers. It occurs at very low concentrations in nature, and in the Florida Aquifer, in background areas. But it’s easily elevated in groundwater when you apply high fertilizer loads to the land, especially in areas that are highly vulnerable. A large part of the Florida Aquifer in north central Florida is exposed to the surface, the ground, and is vulnerable to inputs of nitrogen. It also comes in from wastewater discharges, both from animal waste and human wastewater discharges. Those are the two biggest sources of nitrate into the Aquifer.

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department is having a Water Supply forum tonight starting at 6:30. WUFT-FM’s Alyssa Averette reports on an Alachua County farmer who is willing to try new techniques to help with current water concerns.

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Water. It’s everywhere.

We drink it, clean with it and enjoy spending hot summer days in it.

But water supply and usage is something that should not be taken lightly. Agriculture is a large consumer of water, and protective practices are essential. Alachua County farmer Alto Straughn has been farming for many decades and has become committed to water conservation and springs protection.

Straughn has three main farms consisting of m0re than 1,000 acres spread out through Alachua, Gilchrist and Levy counties. His main crop is blueberries but also produces watermelon, planted pine trees, strawberries and has a small portion in the beef cattle industry.

“You work it out over a period of time. Trial and error and economic feasibility. Feasibility becomes a factor because you can’t do something that you’re losing money on for a long period of time. You might be able to subsidize some practice for a period of time, but in the long haul, it’s gotta be feasible, too.

“We’re committed to try ways to conserve water, to do anything that would reduce the pollution of the water.”

Suwannee River Partnership Coordinator Hugh Thomas helps farmers and individuals use best management practices. Thomas says these practices are created to be cost-effective, promote environmental protection and maintain yield and production.

Hear the full story above.

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