Water-Related News

Lake's biggest water hogs: sand mines

over the last decade, the politics of who gets dwindling amounts of precious water from the Floridan Aquifer has left residents befuddled.

Silly us. We thought we were No. 1 considering that we pay the taxes. But, no.

Twenty years ago, residents could water the dickens out of whatever they wanted, but now the St. Johns River Water Management District limits watering. Today, you can barely keep your lawn from looking like the Mojave Desert while big commercial bottlers get to draw millions of gallons a year and make a profit on a natural resource.

The logic of that arrangement stinks in the minds of most residents, but not at the St. Johns, which sees its mission as providing water where it is needed and people actually drinking water as the best use of the stuff, regardless of who profits.

So who is getting the most water in Lake County, and what is it used for? What has changed since 1985, when agriculture was the economic and water use powerhouse? The answer is a lot.

Then, groves and farms used 33 million gallons a day, and what is called public supply — people drinking and watering lawns had permits for roughly 24 million gallons a day. About 126,325 people lived in Lake County then.

A survey of 584 active water permits in Lake today shows that agricultural uses are allowed to draw up to 44 million gallons a day and public supply users have overtaken the farm use and doubled it — they can draw up to 88 million gallons a day.

Those are the two biggest types of use, but the three single biggest water users in Lake come from the category of commercial users. They are sand mines owned by Cemex, Florida Rock and Tarmac America, now called Titan Florida LLC.

Critics of DEP water rules now are more hopeful for appeals

Critics of state limits on toxic chemicals in waterways expressed optimism following an appeals court ruling on Tuesday that reversed the dismissal of legal challenges to the state standards.

In July 2016, a sharply divided state Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 during a boisterous meeting to approve new human health criteria despite opposition from environmental activists, some local governments and industry groups.

An administrative law judge threw out challenges filed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the city of Miami, the Florida Pulp and Paper Association and Martin County because he said they were filed late. But the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that Judge Bram D. E. Canter erred by siding with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in ruling that the deadline had passed.

Rains ease drought, but aquifer not healthy yet

LEESBURG — The drought is over — for now — in Lake County, which continues to get pummeled by heavy afternoon rains almost daily, according to state water officials.

The St. Johns River Water Management District says the rain has erased the drought, but cautioned that the aquifer, from which Florida draws most of its drinking water, still hasn’t rebounded to satisfactory levels.

“Despite this recent rainfall, we need to stay committed to our water conservation efforts,” St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Ann Shortelle said in a release from the district on Tuesday. “Our team continues to closely monitor hydrologic data within the district as we work to ensure sufficient water for people and the environment.”

Keep Lake Beautiful volunteer earns Outstanding Youth Champion Award

Mount Dora High School graduate Rachel Clark has done more for the environment during her school-age years than some can accomplish during an entire lifetime.

This year, Clark, 18, coordinated a lake cleanup for her classmates in conjunction with Keep Lake Beautiful and the county’s Adopt-a-Lake Program. For her work, Clark has been given the Outstanding Youth Champion Award by Keep Florida Beautiful, of which Keep Lake Beautiful (KLB) is an affiliate. The award honors an engaged young person who demonstrates leadership in promoting behavior change on litter prevention, recycling, and beautification.

“Volunteering is so rewarding and fun,” said Clark. “I think everybody has what it takes to make a big difference in the world. Little things like saving electricity, turning off the water when you brush your teeth and recycling are really easy to do.”

Clark has been volunteering since she was in elementary school, having worked on various lakeshore restorations, storm water drainage marking projects, performing a recycling-themed puppet show at summer camp, as well guest-hosting a radio show about litter prevention. In 2007 and 2008 she received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her efforts with the Lake County recycling program. She recently planted 50 cypress trees on the Lake-Sumter State College campus, where she plans to attend college in the fall on a volleyball scholarship.

“For many years, Rachel has used her leadership skills to help improve Lake County’s environment,” said Will Dawson, KLB coordinator. “We are lucky to have such a dedicated teen volunteer engaging her peers about the importance of protecting our natural resources, and we are thrilled that she is being honored for her great work.”

Since its launch, KLB has hosted or partnered on more than 20 projects including community and waterway cleanups, roadside litter pickups, neighborhood and school beautification events, tree plantings and household hazardous waste collection events. The mission of KLB is to beautify Lake County by engaging the community. To register as a volunteer or to become a sponsor of future events in Lake County, visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/KLB or call 352-253-1660. For information about the Adopt-a-Lake Program, contact Cathie Catasus, 352-253-1659 ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov

Project benefits water quality for Lake Apopka and springs of the Wekiva system

A recently completed project at a central Florida RV park and campground will help achieve water quality improvements for Lake Apopka and springs of the Wekiva system. The St. Johns River Water Management District contributed $34,425 to the project at Orange Blossom KOA in Orange County, which dismantled an old wastewater treatment plant and connected the campground to a central sewer system.

"Protecting and restoring water quality is a core mission of the district," said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. "We are excited to help fund this local project because it means improved water quality for not only Wekiva system but also Lake Apopka."

After dismantling and removing the inefficient wastewater treatment facility from the site, the campground connected to the city of Apopka's central sewer system. The move removes the pollution source, eliminating nitrogen, phosphorus and other wastewater effluents. Located a half-mile from Lake Apopka marshlands, the work benefits nearby Lake Apopka and the Wekiva spring system.

The district and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection each contributed $34,425 to the project.

Tom Palmer: Problem of water use is not a new issue

To hear some political leaders discuss the increasing challenges of addressing water supply issues lately, you might think this is a relatively recent issue. The same goes for some of the approaches to storing water for future use.

I was reading something the other day about this topic.

“Our water resources can and will be exhausted unless we use them wisely and plan for some method of storing to be used in dry seasons,” it read.

This was from a Florida textbook titled “Florida: Wealth of Waste.” It was published in 1946.

Flash forward to 1973 and read a treatise written by Garald Parker (1905-2000). Parker was known as the “father of Florida groundwater hydrology” and the person credited with coining the term “Swiftmud” to refer to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. At the time, he was Swiftmud’s chief hydrologist and senior scientist.

He suggested more efficient irrigation, treating and reusing sewer discharges, building desalination plants, development of regional wellfield complexes and water distribution systems, capturing and storing storm runoff underground, and taking care not to mine the aquifer.

The last term refers to withdrawing water from the aquifer faster than it can be replenished by rainfall.

It has taken time, but many of these measures were eventually adopted in this part of the state.

Water Atlas program, faculty, Atlas sponsors receive FLMS Awards

News Image

The USF Water Institute was one of five recipients of FLMS Awards of Excellence at the 2017 Florida Lake Management Society symposium in Captiva Island. Former USF Water Institute faculty member Jim Griffin was honored by the Society with its highest award, the Marjorie Carr Award, for lifetime achievement.

The USF Water Institute received the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award, given to individuals or organizations who report on aquatic resource issues, for its use of informatics to publicly disseminate data and supporting, explanatory information related to water resource management. The Water Atlas program is Institute's primary vehicle for distributing water information.

Dr. Jim Griffin, principal investigator for the Water Atlas program from 2005 until he retired in 2014, received the Marjorie Carr Award, the Florida Lake Management Society’s highest award. It is given for lifetime work on behalf of Florida’s aquatic resources. The award is named in honor of Marjorie Carr who, among other things, organized citizens and brought to an end the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Other 2017 FLMS award recipients:

  • Judy Ott received the Edward Deevey, Jr. Award, given to an individual for contributing to our scientific understanding of Florida’s water bodies. Edward Devey was an internationally recognized limnologist and was affiliated with the State Museum of Florida at the time of his death. Judy retired in March after nine years as program scientist for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.
  • The Seminole County SERV Program received the Dr. Daniel E. Canfield Jr. Volunteerism Award, given to a volunteer organization or outstanding volunteer for significant contributions to the research, restoration, and/or preservation of our water resources. The award is named after Dr. Daniel Canfield, founder of Florida LAKEWATCH, the pioneering citizen-volunteer water quality monitoring program involving over 1,200 lakes statewide, and now being emulated across the United States. The Seminole Education, Restoration and Volunteer (SERV) Program works to actively restore and educate people on how to protect the waterways and natural areas of Seminole County.
  • Nia Wellendorf, Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, received the FLMS Young Professional Award, presented to a young lake management professional who exhibits exemplary professional accomplishments and a commitment to water resource protection and management of our lakes and watersheds.

Lake County hosts two events to collect household hazardous waste and unwanted medications

Lake County Solid Waste is encouraging Lake County residents to dispose of unwanted household hazardous materials and medications in a safe and environmentally conscious way at the following two upcoming collection events:

•In partnership with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, July 13 from 9 a.m. - noon in the parking lot of Minneola City Hall, located at 800 N. U.S. Highway 27, Minneola.
•In partnership with the Leesburg Police Department on Thursday, July 27 from 9 a.m. - noon in the parking lot of Home Depot, located at 10825 U.S. Highway 441, Leesburg.

Representatives will be on-hand to collect unused or unwanted medications in addition to small quantities of waste products such as lawn and gardening materials, photo and swimming pool chemicals, paint and related products, cleaning solutions, motor oil and used gas, batteries, fluorescent lamps, light bulbs and small propane tanks.

Staff at the event will be offering convenient drive-thru disposal of items so residents won’t have to leave their vehicles. Materials such as infectious waste, solvents, chemical laboratory waste and radioactive waste are prohibited.

Excessive amounts of hazardous materials will not be accepted due to limited space in the mobile unit. If residents have large quantities of items to dispose of, a special drop-off day will be scheduled at the Central Solid Waste Facility, 13130 County Landfill Road, Tavares. To schedule a drop-off, call 352-343-3776.

The collection event is open to Lake County residents only.

For more information about this event, or to find out about future collection events, visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/hazardouswaste or call Lake County Solid Waste at 352-343-3776.

FWC asking for public’s help in tracking fish kills

News Image

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your help in monitoring fish health by tracking marine and freshwater fish kills in Florida.

FWC scientists monitor and document fish kills and diseases, as well as other aquatic animal health issues and associated environmental events. Many factors can contribute to a fish kill. The good news is that most natural water bodies are resilient to fish kill events.

The public can report fish kills to the FWC at MyFWC.com/FishKill or by calling the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. You can also submit a report through the “FWC Reporter” app on your iOS or Android mobile devices.

Trump administration moves to withdraw clean-water rule

The Trump administration moved Tuesday to roll back an Obama administration policy that protected more than half the nation's streams from pollution but drew attacks from farmers, fossil fuel companies and property-rights groups as federal overreach.

The 2015 regulation sought to settle a debate over which waterways are covered under the Clean Water Act, which has dragged on for years and remained murky despite two Supreme Court rulings. President Donald Trump issued an executive order in February instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind or revise the Obama rule, which environmentalists say is essential to protecting water for human consumption and wildlife.

In a statement, the agencies announced plans to begin the withdrawal process, describing it as an interim step. When it is completed, the agencies said, they will undergo a broader review of which waters should fall under federal jurisdiction.