Thursday, February 28, 2008

Let the videos begin!

Today, St. Johns Riverkeeper announces the start date of the Conserving Water To Save Our Rivers PSA Video Contest.

“Conserving Water To Save Our Rivers” PSA Contest entries must be 60 seconds or less and address the importance of protecting our water resources and the St. Johns River system. We are not looking for entries that simply provide water conservation tips. We want kids to raise awareness by challenging viewers to examine how we use water, to understand why it is important to conserve water and the consequences of over-use, and to consider how to sustainably protect the St. John River and our groundwater resources. We expect this to be a challenging task for kids to tackle in 60-seconds or less, but never underestimate the talents and creativity of our youth.

All of the decisions that involve how we use our groundwater and the surface waters from our rivers are being decided by politicians and adult decision-makers. The PSA Contest will provide our youth with the opportunity to have a voice in the debate and to help raise awareness about an issue that impacts their lives, as well. In fact, any problems that should arise from the decisions that we make will fall to our kids to bear and to solve.

For more information, visit the St. Johns Riverkeeper website at

On the PSA Contest page of our website is a really cool video about the Contest that was created by our partners in this project, Team Gaia.

Also, there is a video posted on the Florida Times-Union website about the Contest.
Check it out!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Below is the unedited version of a recent letter written by Jimmy Orth, Executive Director of St. Johns Riverkeeper, that appeared in the Florida Times-Union:

Everyone in NE FL seems to be in opposition to the proposals by Central Florida and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to withdraw millions of gallons of water a day from the St. Johns River. Most local governments have passed resolutions in opposition to the plan. Mayor Peyton and many of our state legislators are concerned that these proposals will harm the river. Everyone also acknowledges that we have to do a much better job of using our limited water resources more responsibly and efficiently. Even the SJRWMD claims to support an expansion of water conservation measures. Unfortunately, our actions don’t correspond with our rhetoric. Each day, I see businesses and residents watering at the wrong time of the day or too frequently with sprinklers that are not properly adjusted. Recently, I reported a problem at a city-owned property where the sprinklers have been operating every day for at least 2 weeks, extending beyond the10AM rule and pouring thousands of gallons of water on the adjacent street. Four days after reporting the problem to the city, the sprinklers were still running. In NE FL, we have not adopted mandatory water conservation measures and our utilities provide few incentives for conservation. Even though the SJRWMD has said that conservation could postpone the water withdrawal plans, they continue to rubber stamp consumptive use permits (CUPs) for the withdrawal of our groundwater. In 2007, permits were issued that total 2.845 million gallons a day (mgd) for golf courses, 1.74 mgd for sod farms, 4.31 mgd for a fish farm, .769 for water bottling plants, and 1.296 mgd to a Cocoa Beach surf shop for its cooling and air condition. That is a total of 10.96 mgd or over 4 billion gallons of water a year. These are just some of the more egregious or excessive permits and only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the total amount of water that is permitted each year for withdrawal from our aquifer. Now, the SRJRWMD wants to allow Seminole County to withdraw 5.5 million gallons per day from the river to be used primarily for irrigation purposes. The bottom line is that we have not taken water conservation seriously, and we absolutely must. We must provide more effective education, substantially increase incentives and markedly improve and strengthen regulations that govern water use. Using over 50% of our potable water on our lawns and shrubs is no longer an option, and we must start using drought-tolerant landscaping practices. We also have to start making prudent decisions about the appropriate uses and how we prioritize and allocate this essential public resource. Now is the time for us to decide – do we continue to just talk a good game or do we also start demonstrating our commitment by taking aggressive and more responsible actions. Yes, we all oppose the plans to take water from the river. But, we must also take responsibility and conserve our water resources to the point that there is no need to withdraw water from our river in the first place.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Damn Yankee

The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has announced that it is recommending approval of a permit by Seminole County to take up to 5.5 million gallons of water a day (mgd) from the St. Johns River at its Yankee Lake facility primarily for irrigation uses.

This comes right on the heels of the SJRWMD announcing that it will spend nearly $2 million of our taxpayer dollars to study the potential impacts of the withdrawal proposals over the next 2 years. We certainly support further studies before any withdrawal decisions are made. However, the District's decision to recommend approval of the Yankee Lake project permit before the study has even begun gives the impression that the study is just window-dressing for a done deal.

The Yankee Lake permit will be voted on by the SJRWMD Governing Board at their next meeting in Palatka on March 11th. Even though the SJRWMD staff is recommending approval, the Governing Board can vote to deny the permit application. Write or e-mail the Governing Board members and let them know what you think about this permit and the water withdrawal proposals in general.

If you can, try to attend the meeting on March 11th, as well. We need to show up in force and let the Governing Board members know that they have an obligation to protect our St. Johns River and our water resources.

For contact information for the Governing Board, visit the Riverkeeper website and click on the image in the Current News section or go directly to

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where's Charlie?

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by the district court that would have allowed the Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia to enter into an agreement for water rights to the Lake Lanier reservoir. The decision was viewed as a victory for Florida and Alabama.

Governor Crist applauded the court for "recognizing the importance of maintaining Florida's water flow."

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Michael Sole, also supported the ruling, saying that lower river flows would harm Apalachiacola Bay.

Why don't they apply that same logic to another one of our state's most important rivers, the St. Johns?

Similar to the situation in Georgia, the St. Johns is also threatened by plans to reduce its flow by using its waters to supplement the drinking water needs of communities that have reached their water supply limits.

The St. Johns River water withdrawal proposals could be just as harmful to an important and fragile aquatic ecosystem. In fact, the rate of flow of the St. Johns is less than the Apalachiacola and the tidal influences are much greater. This results in the St. Johns not being able to flush pollutants efficiently to begin with.

The bottom line is this: Less freshwater and less flow are bad for BOTH rivers.

Governor, when are you going to stand up and defend the St. Johns River, too?

Let's maintain the flow in the St. Johns, as well.