Water-Related News

Water Atlas program, faculty, Atlas sponsors receive FLMS Awards

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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.

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.

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.

It isn’t.

Parker notes that Florida has had worse floods and droughts than some of the events that triggered the formation of Florida’s water management districts.

He added, however, that in the days when Florida’s population was smaller, people could manage to get water somehow and generally had enough sense not to build in flood-prone areas.

Parker made some other points that are relevant to water planning today.

Ground water and surface water are only different sides of the same hydrologic coin and must be managed as a single resource.

Governor and cabinet approve 6,000-acre Florida Forever Acquisition

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet members approved the acquisition of a conservation easement of more than 6,000 acres within the Old Town Creek Watershed Florida Forever project. This project will preserve a large landscape and watershed area that is home to several natural communities and plant and animal species that depend on them. This project includes the headwaters of Bee Branch and Old Town Creek that feed into Charlie Creek, which ultimately feeds into the Peace River.

“DEP is excited to complete important acquisitions like this one,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This project will help protect water and natural resources for future generations.”

The project was ranked number 27 in the Florida Forever Less-Than-Fee projects category. The property is adjacent to the Saddle Blanket Lakes Scrub Preserve, public conservation land owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, and is in close proximity to the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape and the Everglades Headwater National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, the property is located within the 2013 Florida Ecological Greenways Network.

“The Nature Conservancy is proud to support the acquisition of the Old Town Creek Conservation Easement,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director, The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “This project supports a variety of threatened and endangered plants and animals, and ultimately helps protect the water quality in the Peace River.”

“We are excited to see the Department bring these types of good ecosystem protection projects to the Cabinet for approval,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “This acquisition will help protect the headwaters of important Peace River tributaries, conserve flatwoods and floodplain and protect water resources.”

A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a piece of property to protect lands for future generations, while allowing owners to continue to live on and use their land. Through this conservation easement, the state of Florida will protect the land and water resources found within the Old Town Creek Watershed project, while also maintaining the historic homestead on the site.

Local governments, more or less, tackling effects of climate change

In the future, Holmes Beach City Hall may be reachable only by boat.

Predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show seaside cities gradually taking on water like a weather-worn ship. Granted, these aren’t immediate changes — the median prediction of sea level rise will reach up to 6 feet of water by the year 2100.

While doubts about climate change’s effects persist throughout the United States, rising seas, acidic oceans and stronger storms are already being felt on the Gulf Coast.

On the front lines, Gulf Coast leaders know it’s there. But what’s being done to address it?

Water efficiency in rural areas getting worse, despite improvements in urban centers

A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

“Understanding water use is becoming increasingly important, given that climate change is likely to have a profound impact on the availability of water supplies,” said Sankar Arumugam, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and lead author of a new study on the work. “This research helps us identify those areas that need the most help, and highlights the types of action that may be best suited to helping those areas.”

The new paper in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, stems from a National Science Foundation-funded, interuniversity research project which focuses on understanding how water sustainability in the United States has changed over the past 30 years because of climate change and population growth.

For this paper, researchers evaluated water use data at the state and county level for the 48 contiguous states. Specifically, the researchers looked at water-use efficiency, measured as per capita consumption, in 5-year increments, from 1985 to 2010.

Scott vetoes spending for citrus canker claims, water projects

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed $37.4 million to pay for citrus canker judgments along with $15.4 million for local water projects.

Canker is a bacterial disease that blemishes a tree's fruit and can cause it to drop prematurely. To protect Florida's $9 billion dollar citrus industry, more than 16 million trees, including 865,000 residential trees, were destroyed statewide, beginning in 2000.

In his veto letter, Scott said only that he was striking the spending for citrus judgments for Broward and Lee counties because of "ongoing litigation."

Overall, Scott vetoed $410 million from the $82 billion budget. A special session is scheduled for next week to provide funding from the vetoes for education, economic development and the Visit Florida tourism marketing agency.

USGS study Finds 28 types of cyanobacteria in Florida algal bloom

A new U.S. Geological Survey study that looked at the extensive harmful algal bloom that plagued Florida last year found far more types of cyanobacteria present than previously known.

Twenty-eight species of cyanobacteria were identified in the extensive bloom, which occurred in the summer of 2016 in southern Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Canal and River, and the Caloosahatchee River. As the guacamole like sludge created by the bloom began to stick together, it formed a thick, floating mat that coated river and coastal waters and shorelines – affecting tourism, killing fish, and in some cases, making people sick.

The culprit causing the bloom was a well-known species of cyanobacteria called Microcystis aeruginosa. However, water samples collected by state and federal agencies before and during the disruptive bloom on Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee waterway were analyzed by the USGS and found to contain 27 other species of cyanobacteria.

New research vessel to impact marine research across Florida

With the crack of two bottles of champagne and the blessing from a local priest, Florida’s newest research vessel, the R/V W.T. Hogarth, was christened and launched for the first-time Tuesday May 23, 2017.

The 78-foot vessel, named after William T. Hogarth, Ph.D, the Florida Institute of Oceanography’s former director and the former dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, will be used to support research efforts by USF, as well as more than two dozen institutions and agencies across Florida.

Legislators worked hard to keep the contract local, and challenged Duckworth Steel Boats of Tarpon Springs with designing and building the ship.

“It was a little different than anything else we’ve worked on, but it means a lot to me because I like to see that the oceans are being taking care of,” said Junior Duckworth, owner of Duckworth Steel Boats.

This fall, the W.T. Hogarth will replace the nearly 50-year old R/V Bellows, by joining the FIO’s academic fleet with an inaugural voyage, undertaking a circumnavigation of Florida’s coast.

Modified Phase III water shortage restrictions

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017 The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board voted to increase water restrictions throughout the region. The Modified Phase III water shortage affects counties throughout the District’s boundaries including Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.

Effective Date and Areas

  • The District’s Modified Phase III water shortage restrictions are in effect June 5, 2017 through August 1, 2017, except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments.
  • These measures currently apply to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties; the portions of Charlotte, Highlands, Lake, Levy, Marion, Polk, and Sumter, within the District’s jurisdiction; and Gasparilla Island (including the portion in Lee County) except as noted below.
  • Some local governments, such as St. Petersburg, have local ordinances with special watering times.
  • Some local governments, such as Sarasota County and Dunedin, have local ordinances with special one-day-per-week schedules.
  • Ocala and most of unincorporated Marion County follows the St. Johns River Water Management District’s water restrictions; however, the City of Dunnellon and The Villages remain under the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s water restrictions.
  • Unincorporated Levy County follows the Suwannee River Water Management District.
  • These restrictions apply to the use of wells and surface sources such as ponds, rivers and canals, in addition to utility-supplied water.

Central Florida Water Initiative focuses on collaboration with utilities to extend water supply

Built on the concept of collaboration, the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) works with the area’s 83 utilities to scale water conservation efforts and promote alternative water supplies for a growing population.

“The CFWI is focused on regional, multijurisdictional solutions that serve more than one utility, and by extension more residents, businesses, the agricultural community and other water users in the region,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “We remain focused on ensuring sustainable use of Florida’s water, knowing that coordination is key to successfully implement a water supply plan of this size and scale.”

“This unique partnership can be a model for other communities across the country,’” said Southwest Florida Water Management District Executive Director Brian Armstrong. “We are proud to work together to develop strategies to meet our region’s growing water demands.”

“As a longtime Central Florida resident, I can personally attest to the crucial importance of water supply,” said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “Our Governing Board is enthusiastic to play a part in this major collaborative effort to find every available way to ensure water supply for future generations.” Through partnerships with utilities, the CFWI has developed a methodical approach to implementing large-scale water conservation and alternative water supply sources.

• Throughout the CFWI, the use of reclaimed water has grown along with population increases. By building the infrastructure and using reclaimed water, utilities and the communities they serve conserve traditional freshwater supplies and provide an environmentally responsible alternative to disposal of wastewater.
• Water savings incentive programs, like Florida Water Star, help utilities promote water conservation by offering customers rebates and incentives to install water-efficient appliances, landscapes and irrigation systems.
• Water management districts provide a variety of opportunities for utilities within the CFWI to share construction costs for projects that assist in meeting a variety of goals, including creating alternative water supplies and enhancing conservation efforts.
• Utilities and water management districts participate in leak detection programs, which conserve water and increase a utility’s operational efficiency by inspecting and detecting leaks in public water system pipelines.
• Development of a list of water supply project options for the CFWI Planning Area in coordination with utilities and other stakeholder groups.
• Utilities encourage water conservation on a local level by implementing ordinances that promote irrigation restrictions, as well as using tier-rate billing to urge water savings indoors and outdoors.

The goal of CFWI is to develop strategies to meet water demands while ensuring water resources are protected, conserved and restored in the 5,300-square-mile area. Public supply is currently the largest use category in the CFWI Planning Area, with use expected to increase by approximately 40 percent by 2035. To address this increase, water management districts work with utilities as well as other stakeholder groups to address these water supply needs.

The CFWI is a joint effort by the water management districts (Southwest, St. Johns and South Florida), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and water utilities, environmental groups, business organizations, agricultural communities, and other stakeholders to recognize and address the water needs of the future.

Pace of sea-level rise has tripled since 1990, new study shows

Virtually all 2.5 million Miami-Dade residents live on land that's less than ten feet above sea level. In terms of real-estate assets vulnerable to flooding, Miami is the second most exposed city on Earth, behind only Guangzhou, China. And Miami is basically the poster child for the effects of climate change, because the city has already begun flooding on sunny days.

But now a new study shows the seas are actually rising three times faster as they were in the 1990s.

Using a new satellite technique, the study in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that before 1990, the ocean was rising at a rate of roughly 1.1 millimeter per year. From 1990 to 2012, however, that rate spiked to 3.1 millimeters per year. Though that rate might still seem small, even a rise of a few millimeters worldwide can lead to increased flooding events or more deadly storm surges at an alarming pace.

Importantly, the study's authors claim the new data — first reported by the Washington Post — shows that scientists had previously underestimated how fast the oceans were rising before 1990, before widespread satellite data was available.

Controversial Haines City compost plant hopes to resume operations

HAINES CITY — Residents living near the controversial composting facility on East Park Road have had some peace over the past several weeks, but the facility’s restart could come soon.

Even before it opened, the facility operated by BCR NuTerra has been a topic of controversy. Since it opened, many nearby residents and businesses have complained about fading health and a reduced quality of life.

Operations at the facility have been suspended since February. Representatives for the company say they are working to be a good neighbor and are trying to make things right. They are making changes they hope will win back confidence from the city and nearby residents and allow composting to begin again.