News Release: Suwannee River Water Management District
LIVE OAK, FL – “Water for Nature, Water for People” is a phrase that embodies the purpose of the Suwannee River Water Management District (District). And it is our motto for good reason. It represents a delicate balance that we take very seriously.
The District employs both resource management and regulatory measures to ensure that our water resources are protected, and that there is an adequate water supply for reasonable and beneficial uses.
Resource management measures include implementing and encouraging water conservation, offsetting groundwater withdrawals with alternative sources such as reclaimed water, recharging the aquifer with clean water to increase water levels and flows in springs, rehydrating wetlands and ponds, improving water quality, and data collection and analysis. Regulatory measures include minimum flows and levels (MFLs) and our permitting programs.
During the past fiscal year, the District worked with agricultural producers and local governments to reduce water use through improved efficiency and water conservation. These partnerships resulted in an estimated groundwater water savings of 9.74 million gallons per day (mgd). Nearly half of the groundwater savings occurred in the Santa Fe River Basin.
The District also conducts projects such as the recently initiated Middle Suwannee River and Springs Restoration and Aquifer Recharge project that will rehydrate ponds and wetlands, enhance surface water storage and enhance aquifer recharge to benefit agricultural water supply and spring flows along the Middle Suwannee River.
Establishing MFLs is a science-based process to ensure water availability for the present and future and to prevent significant harm to the area’s natural resources. The District is committed to establishing MFLs on its priority water bodies by 2016. The priority water bodies include our rivers, first magnitude springs and second magnitude springs on publicly-owned lands, and large lakes. Currently, the District is establishing MFLs for the Lower Santa Fe River, Ichetucknee River, and associated Priority Springs.
A common misconception is that water use permits are granted with little evaluation or consideration of our natural resources. This is simply not the case. Water use permit applications are evaluated to ensure existing legal users are protected, to ensure the use is reasonable and beneficial, and to ensure the use is in the public interest. During the last fiscal year, the District upgraded its assessment tools which greatly improved the application evaluation process.
Very few water use permit requests are new applications or for new water use. The majority of the requests are for transfers and modifications, and these frequently do not involve additional or “new” water. For example, last fiscal year the District allocated only 19.17 mgd of “new” water use throughout our 15 county area. And although this may sound like a lot, it is actually less than 2 percent of the permitted water allocation District-wide. Net water allocations within the District actually declined in two counties, Levy and Alachua.
The District has been tasked with managing water resources to protect the health of springs, rivers, and the aquifer while ensuring adequate water supplies are available for all reasonable and beneficial uses. That is an awesome responsibility which we are fully engaged and committed to upholding.