As Florida’s No. 1 source of water continues to be depleted because of overuse, recently proposed legislation may offer permanent solutions to Florida’s water needs.
The Floridan Aquifer System Sustainability Act of 2013, which was proposed by White Springs Mayor Helen B. Miller and 27 other North Florida representatives, would build on past efforts to address water sources on a system-wide basis, and bring permanent solutions to Florida’s water sustainability needs.
The Santa Fe River, for example, used to have higher water levels.
“That’s influenced by the aquifer,” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, president of Our Santa Fe River, a nonprofit organization working to protect the river and the aquifer that feeds it.
The Floridan aquifer, a water system beneath the southern coastal regions of the U.S., is one of the world’s most productive, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“It’s limestone, and then on top of it, we have some sands, silts and clays,” said Elizabeth Screaton, a geology professor at the University of Florida.
But because of growing consumption, the aquifer level is declining.
About 103 gallons of water are consumed daily by Florida residents, and more than 60 percent of this water is taken directly from aquifers, according to the Florida’s Springs website.
The Floridan aquifer is the biggest source of water that we use for most counties in Central and North Florida, Screaton said.
Water consumption from every sector has grown from 300 million gallons of water a day in 1960, to 800 million gallons of water a day in 2010. Tentative information shows this region is at or near capacity to tap the aquifer, according to Mark Hammond, director of the Southwest Florida Water Management Division.
Annmarie Brennan, a resident of Gilchrist County who lives on the Santa Fe River, said rain has a great impact on the river’s water level.
“We’ve been in seasons where it doesn’t rain for a few months and the water gets very low and clear,” Brennan said.
Aquifer depletion is also caused by increased pumping for cities and towns.
The biggest consumer of water is landscape irrigation, Malwitz-Jipson said.
An estimated 900 million gallons of water are withdrawn from the aquifer daily for the sole purpose of watering residential lawns, according to the Florida’s Springs website.
“If you were just using water for your personal use to shower and to do your dishes, we wouldn’t be seeing this problem,” Malwitz-Jipson said.
Monitor wells have been placed across Florida to watch the aquifer’s level. One of the older and most efficient wells is in Gainesville – in the basement of UF’s Turlington Hall, the main administrative offices for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“We’re really watching that one closely,” Malwitz-Jipson said.
Places like Poe Springs in Alachua County are no longer efficient.
“Poe Springs used to flow a lot better,” Malwitz-Jipson said. “The locals say that the depleted aquifer is why it’s this way.”
Brennan is concerned about the future of Florida’s water.
“I do worry about it,” Brennan said. “My husband and I worry about the well going dry.”