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Water Resource

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Essay title: Water Resource

Water Resource

The Floridian Aquifer in Southwest Florida is the source of potable water, irrigation for citrus and other agricultural products, as well as the source of a multitude of springs and rivers that provide essential habitats and recreational opportunities. This aquifer is also utilized by large phosphate mining operations. Long-term aquifer declines began when the southwest portion of Florida began to be developed. The result of the aquifer declines was a reduction of flows in the Peace River, the lowering of lake levels in the Lake Wales Ridge area, springs ceased to flow, and saltwater intrusion accelerated. Management of this resource became critical as drought conditions further complicated a dire situation. From the crisis, the Southwest Florida Water Management District developed the Southern Water Use Caution Area (SWUCA) and the SWUCA Recovery Plan. Only time will tell if the recovery plan can restore the Florida Aquifer.

In 1975, the center of the aquifer level declines was in an area dominated by phosphate mining. The mining operations then began to practice conservation measures that drastically reduced their dependence on the Floridian Aquifer (SWFWMD, 2006). At the same time that demands on the aquifer were being reduced by the phosphate industry, an increase in demand was being felt due to large scale agricultural endeavors. In addition to the irrigation needed to sustain crops during the dry season in Florida, large quantities of water are often pumped in the winter months as freeze protection when the temperatures dip too low. With the agricultural demands, the center of the declines just shifted to the agricultural areas.

In the 1970's, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County was experiencing an explosion in population but they had no more potable water to provide to its residents. The county began buying up land in Pasco and Hernando Counties to the north and started developing well fields. When water that was withdrawn from the aquifer in this area, it resulted in drawing down wetlands and cypress swamps across the two counties. Trees fell over, private wells went dry, and lakes and ponds shrunk. The Water Wars were on as citizens began to sue Pinellas County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) (Dedekorkut, 2003).

By the early 1990s, more residents were being impacted by the groundwater withdrawals as sinkholes began to open up in the northern parts of the SWFWMD. Water officials tried to assure residents that the sinkholes, dry wells, and shrunken lakes were the result of the drought. When rains returned to average (and above average), the officials shifted the blame to development, and then to agriculture (Glennon, 2002). It is not always an easy task to prove the connection between water being pumped from underground and the devastating effects that were being seen at the surface. By 1996, a SWFWMD study concluded that not only was there a connection, but it was a "significant" connection.

Prior to this epiphany, water officials devised a plan to effectively mask the effects of the groundwater pumping. Where lakes had gone dry, officials were still contending that it as the drought that was to blame, so they decided to pump groundwater to augment the lakes. Much of the water drained back into the aquifer and more was lost to evaporation, but for a short time, the illusion that there were no problems was achieved.

The next step in the water crisis was to decide what to do about all of the groundwater withdrawals. If the water had reasonable and beneficial uses, then how could the SWFWMD tell people they couldn't use it?

While water demand for drinking water and irrigation for crops are reasonable and beneficial, there are other uses of the Floridian Aquifer that are considered recreational or aesthetic. The water used for swimming pools or to keep golf courses green or to fill decorative fountains all comes from the Floridian Aquifer. During dry months, water for irrigation can add an additional 1 or 2 million gallons per day of demand onto an already stressed system.

The SWFWMD has already taken steps to hasten

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