One Geologist’s To-Do List for Restoring Springs
By Jim Gross
Editor’s Note: Jim Gross, the geologist who spoke at one of our Water Voices programs in 2016, wrote the following in an email thread I received; he has generously given us permission to print it here. When people ask, “What is causing the problems with our springs?” and “What can we do?,” the following paragraphs provide excellent answers and guidance.
What I’ve heard recently is that restoration likely involves both increased flows and decreased nutrient loading, which is not really surprising when you think about it. Springs are like organisms—they need adequate amounts of freshwater and that freshwater must be free of toxic substances.
I believe we can restore our springs to much of their former glory. We humans are perhaps the smartest species ever to inhabit Earth, but smart and wise are different aspects of our nature.
Just off the top of my head, here are a dozen things to consider:
- Significantly reduce withdrawals of groundwater from the Floridan aquifer system, perhaps by 20% or more.
- Eliminate or substantially eliminate the use of fertilizers in springsheds.
- Transition away from our current septic system practices, especially in springsheds.
- Upgrade current wastewater systems to advanced wastewater treatment systems to reduce nutrients.
- Increase nonpotable water reuse and begin the transition to potable reuse systems.
- Consider using ocean desalination in areas where it is most cost effective.
- Develop and implement economic policies that reflect the true costs for water.
- Ensure that the costs for needed water infrastructure are borne by all who will benefit, but use tiered rates and other mechanisms to ensure water is affordable for fundamental human water needs.
- Incentivize land uses that promote water sustainability. Disincentivize land uses that do not promote sustainability.
- Bring greater clarity to Florida’s definition of the “public interest” as it relates to water use, and perhaps eliminate some uses from being in the public interest.
- Florida’s consumptive use permitting system has drifted back toward being a system of water rights similar to many western states. We need to reinforce Florida water law as it relates to consumptive use permits.
- Incorporate strategic planning into regional water supply planning. It’s not enough to know what things to do; we need new policies to show us how to accomplish them.