Audubon Florida’s Director of Advocacy Charles Lee urged bold action by Florida’s political leaders at the Silver Springs Rally hosted by the Florida Conservation Coalition in Silver Springs State Park Saturday, June 23.
Over 1,500 people attended the event, along with numerous public officials. Many Audubon chapter leaders and activists were in attendance. Former Governor and Senator Bob Graham, Former Senator Lee Constantine and Bruce Smathers, Florida’s Secretary of State during the 1970’s were also present.
Charles Lee urged Florida officials to prevent the permitting of the Adena Springs cattle ranch project from becoming the “last nail in the coffin” of Silver Springs. He asked Governor Rick Scott to direct officials of the St. Johns River Water Management District to deny the 13.2 million gallon per day water use permit Canadian Business mogul Frank Stronach is requesting if “there is the slightest risk that permit might worsen conditions at Silver Springs”.
Former Governor Bob Graham noted that his family had long been in the cattle ranch business and said he had never heard of a 13 million gallon per day water permit for a cattle ranch, terming it excessive.
Lee also noted that more than 50% of every public utility’s water is used to water lawns which are “Florida’s largest crop.” He pointed out that we then harvest this “crop” every other week and haul it to the landfill for disposal, and indicated that this is “…not a reasonable-beneficial use of water”. He urged water management districts to recalculate the amount of water utilities are allowed to withdraw from the aquifer, considering among other things the pattern of significantly reduced rainfall prevalent in North Central Florida, and reducing allocated amounts to discount landscape watering as not being a “reasonable-beneficial” use.
Other speakers also documented the dramatic increase in nitrate pollution in the spring’s water, caused by fertilizer application to lawns and crops and discharges from septic tanks and sewage treatment plants that percolate into the aquifer. Nitrate in the spring has caused the natural eelgrass and other native aquatic plants to become coated with sickly looking algae which smothers the natural plants.
The rally, and Audubon’s recommendations, gained considerable favorable coverage and commentary in the press, examples of which can be accessed by clicking the links below.
- Gainesville Sun: “Crazy Guilty About Water“
- Ocala Star-Banner: “Water Forum Draws Hundreds“
- New York Times: “Florida Struggles to Overcome Threats to Freshwater Springs“