To Conserve Or Siphon? Meeting Tonight To Discuss St. Johns River Plan

Jan 16, 2014

The St. Johns River Water Management District will hold a meeting tonight to discuss a plan that calls for the removal of millions of gallons of St. Johns River water.

The Central Florida Water Initiative's draft Regional Water Supply Plan calls for the removal of more than 150 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns River. The project has an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.

Many activists are worried that the water withdrawal will worsen existing pollution and increase the frequency of toxic algal blooms.

The St. Johns River at dusk, Feb. 8, 2007.
Credit joncoxphoto.com / Flickr

“There will be a price to pay,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.

Rinaman is hosting a rally for the Jacksonville Declaration Movement next Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Jacksonville's Northbank Riverwalk.

The movement is meant to encourage citizens from all over state to attend and express the significance of Florida's waterways.

“This river is important, and clean water is important,” said Rinaman.

Activists are also concerned about water flow and salinity levels, saying the plan could have a serious effect on wildlife.

According to experts, withdrawals require treatment by reverse osmosis, releasing a byproduct that contains high salt levels.

Aggressive conservation has been considered as an alternative to water siphoning. Irrigation makes up 50 percent of total resident water use and leaks account for 10 percent of indoor use.

The St. Johns River Water Management District determined that nearly 288 million gallons of water could potentially be saved with a $1.6 billion investment in conservation efforts.

Water usage from the Florida Aquifer is expected to rise from 772 million gallons per day in 2010 to 1.2 billion gallons per day in 2035.

“We’ve already over-allocated our aquifers,” said Rinaman. “They are not taking responsible steps to protect our water resources,” she said, of those advocating for the siphoning plan.

The comment period for the draft plan ends Feb. 20.

Tonight’s meeting, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., will be held at the St. Johns River Water Management District headquarters, 4049 Reid Street, in Palatka.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.