Tag Archives: fresh water

Central Florida Water Initiative, Running Out of Water, What Could This Mean to the SLR/IRL?

The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida that "does not have enough water." Could they use ours?
The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida around Orlando that “does not have enough water.” Could they use ours?

We keep hearing: “Water is the new oil.”

This is hard to believe when one lives in Martin County and watches the destruction from too much fresh water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and releases from Lake Okeechobee. According to the Florida Oceanographic Society, 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water per day is sent/wasted to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico through the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee and other South Florida canals.

Well, there is one area of our state, not too far away, that is running out of water. Today, these counties are part of what is called the “Central Florida Water Initiative,” CFWI. They include:  Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk, Brevard and Volusia.

I must divert for a moment because this is really something as this area holds the “headwaters of the Everglades.”

“Shingle Creek,” in Orlando’s Orange County, is generally considered to be the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades’ watershed. This is an area you probably drive right past upon a visit to Disney World. It was named after the cypress trees that were used to make roof shingles in the pioneer era and beyond.

In the 1960s and 70s, after the cypress trees were cut for the shingle industry, Shingle Creek and the other surrounding streams and lakes’ water-levels were “brought down” in order to allow more development.  One of the ways this was achieved was through the Army Corp of Engineers’ canalization of the once long, serpentine, Kissimmee River. Canalization of the Kissimmee not only helped lower the lakes so they could drain, but also created lands along the now straight canal  for ranch and real estate development.

Today, as we know, all that now dirty, unfiltered, water shoots down the Kissimmee into Lake Okeechobee and then is redirected to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee so the sugar and vegetable farmers south of the lake have “dry feet,” as well… Thankfully, parts of the Kissimmee have been restored and society recognizes the canalization of the Kissimmee River as an environmental disaster. Our disaster.

Nonetheless, there is no way to completely undo what we have done, so now south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Lake Okeechobee often does not have enough water, while the Northern Estuaries sometimes HAVE TOO MUCH.

Where am I going with all this?

So fast forward, it is now 2014, and as I mentioned the “headwaters of the Everglades” and the counties surrounding it are literally “running ” out of water.

This is why the Central Florida Water Initiative, mentioned at the beginning of this write up, was formed.

An excellent article entitled “Central Florida Water Initiative,  “A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis” written by attorneys  Michael Minton, Laura Minton, and John Wharton, of Dean Mead for the Florida Engineering Society succinctly explains the history, goals, and future for the CFWI. I would like to share some of this article.

The article notes how from 2007-20012, the St Johns, South Florida, and Southwest Florida water management districts undertook an assessment of available groundwater for the seven counties listed at the beginning of this blog, noting insufficient quantities for the area’s projected growth— projected to be 6.6 million by approximately 2050. This would include an addition of  3,000,000  people to the population today.

Thus over time and through much coordination and work the CFWI was born.

After deep explanations, the article explains that the CFWI’s conclusions  and recommendation include the following concepts: water is undervalued; continued use of just groundwater sources would cause unacceptable environmental impacts to the Floridan aquifer; the importance of conservation; the importance of alternative water sources, its expense and the coordinated regional effort that would be required to achieve such for the future.

The CFWI is obviously a complex effort thus I will not attempt to go into too great of detail. If you are interested, you can read more about it here:

(http://cfwiwater.com); (http://floridaswater.com/watersupply/CFWIinitiative.html ); (http://cfwiwater.com/pdfs/CFWI_RWSP_FinalDraft_Vol1.pdf)

What I must mention is that on  the final page of the Dean Mead article something very interesting is stated:

“The Solutions Planning Team’s (STP) report is scheduled to be made public in Fall 2014. Once the findings of the SPT are approved by the Steering Committee, it is anticipated that the findings will be made available to the Central Florida Legislative Delegation. The collection of uniquely talented individuals who have volunteered their time and effort to serve on the committee has yielded many novel and creative concepts. Some of the creative opportunities look beyond the CFWI’s geographic boundaries and contemplate transmission of surface water from regions with excess water supply, to the detriment of their environment, to Central Florida to supplement the existing supply. These creative and innovative options are the type of out of the box thinking that long-term solution Florida’s water strategy and policy will require…”

I wonder and I hope they are talking about “us…”

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The Article, Central Florida Water Initiative,  A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis by Dean Mead, was published in the JOURNAL of the Florida Engineering Society, to access this article you must be a member: (http://www.fleng.org/pubs.cfm)

 

 

The History of the Name “St Lucie River” and Changes to its Watershed along the Indian River Lagoon

The St Lucie River was originally a large fresh water "stream" that ran into the Indian River Lagoon.An inlet was cut in 1892.
The St Lucie River basin/drainage map 2013, SFWMD.

For thousands of years, before the intervention of modern man, the Ais Indians walked the banks of a large fresh water “stream,” that flowed to the Indian River Lagoon. When the Seminoles came years later, they called it Halipatiokee, Alligator Water, as it was fresh and full of gators. The Spaniards came in the 1500s, on and off for centuries. They first called the river, Rio de Santa Cruz, river of the Holy Cross, as the river is cross-like. Later, they re-christened the river Rio De Luz , river of light, for the lighting on the water is heavenly. Eventually, the Spanish called the river, Santa Lucea. The English then taking over, “anglicized” the name Santa Lucea, to what we know today, as “St Lucie,” the church’s saint of the blind, and of “vision.”

1883 Geodetic Survey Indian River Florida, St Lucie River
1883 Geodetic Survey, Indian River Florida, St Lucie River.

Unfortunately, there was not much long-term vision when the watersheds around the St Lucie were altered by modern man. In 1892 area pioneers cut a permanent inlet from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, killing the native fresh water grasses that supported an entire ecosystem. Nonetheless, they created something wonderful, the brackish estuary we all know today.  This area, over the years, before its recent destruction, became one of the most bio diverse estuaries in North America.

That wasn’t enough, the local people and the state, with the help of the federal government’s  Army Corp of Engineers, decided they wanted a connection to Lake Okeechobee for trade, travel, agriculture and the convenience of keeping the big lake of Okeechobee, “low.” So they built the C-44 canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to to the St Lucie “River.” In high water times, the overflow from the lake was directed into the St Lucie River as it is today.  Later, around the late 1950s the people decided they wanted more drained land for orange groves and development in the north, and less flooding, so they got the state and federal government to build the C-23, C-24 canals in Martin and St Lucie counties, draining some areas that had never flown south before. These canals even drained lands out west, in what is now Okeechobee County,  and in the north, known today as the City of Port St Lucie.

Did the people building these canals ever think about the effects on the Saint Lucie River?  This seems doubtful. And so today, we have a river system that takes on much more water than it was ever meant to  receive.

As Ernie Lyons, the former great environmentalist and editor of the Stuart News wrote in the 1960s about the loss of the headwaters of the South Fork of the St Lucie River during his lifetime:

“…The drainers got to work on the marshes. The cypress bordered ponds became white sand in the dry times. A ditch through them gushed silted floods during the heavy rains. The little straem was ruined. It  turned from paradise to paradise lost…”

Not until really the 1970s  did humankind start to reflect and realize that we literally were killling paradise, and we have been trying to revive the spirit of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon ever since.

With out a doubt, the spirit of the saint still lives in the St Lucie River; her ancient story is that she lost her eyes to give the people their own “to see .” When you drive over the bridge and look at her, the beautiful St Lucie, open your eyes and ask her to give us all, “better vision.”

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St Lucie River SFWMD: (https://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/common/pdf/stlucie.pdf)

Watershed maps/FDEP: (http://www.protectingourwater.org/watersheds/map/)

Story of St Lucy/Lucie: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy)