Asks Regional Water Planners to "Look for a Better Solution"
In a letter to officials of the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI), a consortium of five Central Florida counties looking to siphon up to 155 millions of gallons of water daily from the St. Johns River, Mayor Lenny Curry has asked that water withdrawals from the upper and middle basins of the St. Johns River be put on hold until additional work exploring alternative water supply options is completed.
“While we are committed to working with the CFWI to develop a long-term strategy,” Mayor Curry said upon the letter’s release, “we’re asking those involved to look for a better solution in meeting that region's water supply needs.”
Curry also took issue with the projections for future water demand in Central Florida, noting that total demand has remained almost unchanged during the 17-year-period between 1995 and 2012 despite an increase in the area’s population of nearly 50 percent. According to Curry, it is his belief that the projected need for an additional 300 million gallons of water daily by 2035 may be overstated. As one of his recommendations, Curry asked the CFWI study team to revisit its calculations for future water demand in the five-county area.
Another area of concern for Curry was the report’s conclusion that only a limited amount of additional groundwater would be available to Central Florida in the coming years. According to Curry, this is "a tacit admission that the portion of the aquifer supplying Central Florida is already close to exhaustion. Under these circumstances, we recommend that the final plan place substantially greater emphasis on all forms of water conservation, as well as efficiency programs, as a means of addressing future water needs."
"The tone of Mayor Curry’s letter was respectful and expressed appreciation for the group’s hard work," said Robin Lumb, the City’s director of policy, "but it clearly conveys the mayor’s concerns with what he sees as shortcomings in the CFWI’s draft plan."
According to Lumb, the three water management districts that are working on developing the water supply plan for Central Florida are the Saint Johns River Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. "The authority and responsibility for the final plan rests with them," Lumb said.
"Nonetheless, it was important for the mayor to go on record with his recommendations about how it should be changed."
Lumb believes the administration’s position on the matter is best summarized in the letter’s penultimate paragraph.
"Transfers of water outside the St. Johns River watershed should be a last resort," wrote Curry. "Instead, the CFWI should do everything possible to forestall surface water withdrawals from the St. Johns River; withdrawals that could not only affect the health of the river and long term water availability but that would also set an unwelcome precedent for future water supply planning initiatives."