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Our waters: destroyed in the name of the law

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By Dan Hilliard

You are invited to attend the hearing and lend your support for our most valuable resource. Public input will be heard beginning at approximately 2 p.m.

This is for those of you who still do the 40-hour work week and manage a budget to pay for groceries, housing, clothes for the kids and a car payment or two.

Preoccupied as we are all with keeping up with the myriad chores of modern life, many have not noticed that Florida’s water policies and laws have failed to a large degree. 

Our planet is about 75 percent covered by water. Of this vast quantity of water, only 1 percent to 2 percent is fresh water, and with few exceptions, only those portions found in the aquifer are of sufficient quality so as to be potable without treatment.

We are wholly dependent upon a resource that can be preserved and maintained, but under the cover of law, in Florida, it often is not. Water is our lifeblood. We depend upon it each and every day of our existence. Our surface waters are transportation conduits and powerful economic engines. We use the water in our aquifer for residential water supply, irrigation, agriculture and industrial applications with hardly a second thought.

We are past the point where a second thought is glaringly necessary. 

Florida promotes development as an economic enterprise. Development is defined by Florida Statute 380 as “the carrying out of any building activity or mining operation, the making of any material change in the use or appearance of any structure or land, or the dividing of land into three or more parcels.” Such activities are dependent upon water, and 80 percent of Florida’s water supply currently comes from our aquifer. We are already using aquifer water faster than it is being replenished. We have allowed our freshwater aquifer to become contaminated with salt water, nitrates and other pollutants.

The Central Florida Water Initiative is currently attempting to identify possible water sources to supply the area’s future needs through 2035. Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) Director of Resource Management Mark Hammond was recently quoted in the Orlando Sentinel saying “Our preliminary finding is that traditional groundwater sources can meet some, but not all projected needs.”

The year 2035 is fewer than 22 years away, less time than it will take to develop alternative supply sources. Until then, we will keep pumping ground water at a furious pace, thus continuing the slide which puts us deeper in the quagmire of impaired waters. Be they springs, lakes or an estuary, much of our economy is dependent on maintaining their health. 

All Citrus County coastal river systems are predominately spring-fed, and all are designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. All are also now on the EPA Impaired Waters List. Removing that smudge from waters which contribute nearly $100 million per year to Citrus County’s economy will be expensive, but it must be done. It is reasonable to defend these waters if only for the economic contribution to our lives and future generations. The foolishness must stop. 

Here’s the message: Your children will carry the burden of decisions and water policies administered today, and tomorrow, by the state of Florida. Your failure to recognize and react to policies which threaten the well-being of your offspring renders you complicit in the condemnation of their future. Though the threat is more subtle than an invasion, its magnitude is no less.

What can you do? Well, get involved and argue in defense of your water so that it will be a legacy and not a liability. Join other concerned citizens and make your voice be heard.

SWFWMD sets minimum flows and levels (MFLs) standards by formulating rules in Florida Administrative Code. In setting MFLs for the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers, SWFWMD determined tripling the current level of flow reduction is acceptable despite current use and resultant pollutant contributions, which have led to their status as impaired waters. This rationale was supported by deferring Clean Water Act requirements from the rule development analysis to permitting review at a later date. The merit of that policy is worthy of challenge due to its manifest failure to protect our waters.

There will be a hearing before the secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the SWFWMD headquarters in Brooksville because local residents and organizations are challenging ineffective water management policy. 

You are invited to attend the hearing and lend your support for our most valuable resource. Public input will be heard beginning at approximately 2 p.m. 

 

 

Dan Hilliard a director with Withlacoochee Area Residents Inc., which was organized in 1984 in response to quality of life threats posed by activities that have a high potential to degrade groundwater and surface water quality.