Possible siphon from St. Johns River

Water Management workshop on issue held at Palatka City Hall

Author: Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Campbell, General assignment reporter, ecampbell@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 06 2014 06:10:03 AM EST   Updated On: Feb 06 2014 10:51:08 PM EST
St. Johns River
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The St. Johns Riverkeeper wants the community’s help to stop plans that would siphon millions of gallons of water a day from the river.

The St. Johns River Water Management District plans to help Central Florida’s water supply problems by withdrawing water from the St. Johns.

Thursday evening the St. Johns River Water Management District held a water supply plan workshop at city hall.

"We're not three months away from not having any water, we are years away of doing that, but we are kind of sending a message that in 5, 10, or 15 years that we have to start changing the way we do things, conserving water, and looking for other water supplies," said St. Johns River Water Management District Assistant Division Director Tom Bartol.

The Riverkeeper wants the community to understand the ramifications, and help advocate against withdrawing that much water from our river.

"One of the things that we're hearing is that they don't want us to use any water out of the river," said Bartol. "The other side of that though is what we're presenting tonight, is really a list of many, many options that water suppliers, utilities, and agriculture can choose from and some of those are river projects. That could be could be developed in the future but currently we don't have those big projects right now as well developed or even designed."

"I'm concerned about what's happening to our spring and what may be happening to the St. Johns if they deepen it, because we don't know, for one thing, we have a very porous aquifer and if it becomes contaminated we're just all gonna have to move away," said Jacksonville resident Patricia Dewitt. "It’s gonna be, we can't really live, the water is the only way we have to live and we need to conserve it the best we can."

The St. Johns River, the longest in Florida, is significant to Jacksonville and beneficial to the River City in more ways than one.

“It really fuels our economy, I mean, Jacksonville is very blessed to have this great river running literally right through us and it provides wonderful recreational opportunities as well as business opportunities,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa Rinaman.

Rinaman is concerned about plans to siphon millions of gallons water from our river every day. The St. Johns River Water Management District said Central Florida is reaching its limits of its predominant source of water so it's looking for alternative sources of water to meet the growing demand.

“They’re proposing to take more than 125 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns River. There are some plans that have 150 million gallons of water a day and when you take that much water, that much fresh water out of the St. Johns River, it's only going to increase the pollution problems that exist today,” said Rinaman.

The Riverkeeper said the biggest issue with withdrawing water is the pollution.

"It's our job to be an independent voice for the St. John's River and to make sure that anyone that's wanting to hurt or help the St. Johns -- if they want to hurt the river, we hold them accountable and protect the St. Johns and if they want to help it, we want to give them all the support we can," said Rinaman.

She said it will only worsen the problems we're already fighting with algae, will reduce the flow, and increase salinity. Which in turn, will impact the fisheries and wildlife that call the river home.

“It’s an opportunity for people in Jacksonville that care about the St. Johns to come out and let the Water Management District know that they do everything they can to live within our water means, we need to be conserving water first and protecting the St. Johns River always,” said Rinaman.

"One of the other most important reasons is one of the places they're targeting for alternative water supply is the St. Johns River," Rinaman added. "There's more than 250 million gallons of water a day being targeted in the study that's being discussed tonight and that will only damage the St. Johns more than it is today. Worse than pollution problems and going to make an expensive mess for future generations to clean up so we're saying lets be sustainable, lets conserve water, and let's put this plan on the shelf until its corrected and focuses a priority on water conservation."