Mayor Curry opposes withdrawing water from river

Jacksonville mayor asks regional water planners to 'Look for a better solution'

St Johns River, Kevin O'Connell
St Johns River, Kevin O'Connell

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a letter to officials of the Central Florida Water Initiative, a consortium of five central Florida counties looking to siphon up to 155 millions of gallons of water daily from the St. Johns River, Mayor Lenny Curry asked that water withdrawals from the upper and middle basins of the St. Johns River be put on hold.

"We're asking those involved to look for a better solution in meeting that region's water supply needs," Curry said Monday upon the letter's release. "Transfers of water outside the St. Johns River watershed should be a last resort." 

Curry's letter cited a resolution passed last year by City Council.

"The official position of the consolidated city of Jacksonville, as stated in City Council Resolution 2014-37- is that we are opposed to surface water withdrawals from the upper and middle basins of the St. Johns River at this time and under these circumstances," Curry wrote.

Curry also took issue with the projections for future water demand in central Florida, noting that total demand has remained almost unchanged during the 17-years between 1995 and 2012 despite an increase in the area's population of nearly 50 percent. Curry believes that the projected need for an additional 300 million gallons of water daily by 2035 may be overstated. As one of his recommendations, Curry asked the study team to revisit its calculations for future water demand in the five-county area.

Another area of concern for Curry was the report's conclusion that only a limited amount of additional groundwater would be available to central Florida in the coming years. According to Curry, this is "a tacit admission that the portion of the aquifer supplying central Florida is already close to exhaustion. Under these circumstances, we recommend that the final plan place substantially greater emphasis on all forms of water conservation, as well as efficiency programs, as a means of addressing future water needs."

"The tone of Mayor Curry's letter was respectful and expressed appreciation for the group's hard work, but it clearly conveys the mayor's concerns," said Robin Lumb, the city's director of policy.

According to Lumb, the three water management districts that are working on developing the water supply plan for central Florida are the St. Johns River Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

"The authority and responsibility for the final plan rests with them," Lumb said. "Nonetheless, it was important for the mayor to go on record with his recommendations about how it should be changed."