By Kelsey Hansen, Group Tours and Education Coordinator
Water is probably the most important, and abundant, natural resource in Florida. It is not only important to the environment, but it is a social and economic resource as well. The State has more than 1,700 streams and rivers, 7,800 freshwater lakes, 700 springs, 11 million acres of wetlands, and aquifers providing millions of gallons of freshwater necessary for both human and environmental needs. Florida’s waterways draw in millions of tourists a year, and development depends on clean lakes and rivers for attracting home buyers. In addition, agriculture depends on it for cattle and other crops. Although it may seem that we have an infinite amount of water in our state and the quality of local water resources is pristine, our local water resources are in jeopardy as demand increases. Water resources, which includes groundwater, surface water, and saline, are vital to sustaining Florida’s society, economy, agriculture, and natural environment.
Weeki Wachee River
An increase in population, development of key environments, and an increase in agricultural activities has led to the degradation of our water resources. Agricultural runoff and outdated septic systems have led to infamous algal blooms across the state; increased population means an increase in withdrawals from the Floridan aquifer, which can lead to increased sinkhole development; and developing lands means the destruction of more habitats, such as springs, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. There are solutions to creating a more sustainable way of using Florida’s water resources, whether it be through increased education by utility companies, or phone apps to show you how much water you are using at home in real-time. State and local officials, as well as other decision-makers, are fully aware of the need to better utilize Florida’s water and have taken measures to ensure its protection for future use.
Spring Creek, Ocala National Forest
As of 2015, Floridians were withdrawing an estimated 15 billion gallons of water per day for public use, agriculture and irrigation, power generation, recreational-landscape irrigation, commercial use, as well as several other uses. This included 9,598 million of gallons per day (Mgal/d) of saline water and 5,721 Mgal/d of fresh water. The largest consumers of freshwater resources in Florida are agricultural production and public supply; agricultural irrigation using about 2 Mgal/d and public supply using 2.2 Mgal/d. Power generation used most of the saline water resources for cooling, cooling pond augmentation, boiler make-up, and domestic uses at power facilities.
Spring Garden Lake, De Leon Springs
Overall, the use of water in Florida has actually decreased since 2005 from about 18 billion gallons per day to 15 billion gallons in 2015, despite population increase. This is due to a decrease in overall agricultural areas, water conservation measures, updated appliances and plumbing, and other regulations set forth by state and local agencies. The rate of water used by homeowners could keep reducing; in a recent survey conducted by the University of Florida, the majority of homeowners surveyed said they would be willing to purchase water-efficient equipment if prices were reduced, and some even stated they would be willing to pay more for better water quality. More education and information on the environmental impacts of water conservation were also stated as a great way to help homeowners reduce their water consumption and conserve.
Even if water use in Florida, and the country, has reduced in the past five years, there are still major issues related to water quality and quantity in the U.S. and globally. It is important that citizens within Volusia county, Florida, and the everywhere understand that water is not infinite and there can be serious implications if we do not take care of our water resources. Florida’s water resources are abundant and beautiful, but the challenges the state faces managing and preserving these resources are mounting. Cooperation, asking the right questions, and transparent discussions are needed for planning to create a sustainable future for our water resources.
Join us in the Root Family Auditorium for presentations on Florida's water conservation and sustainability efforts.
Admission: Free for members, $7.00 for future members, or with paid museum admission.
3:00PM: Clayton Ferrara, Executive Director, IDEAS For Us
Join Clayton Ferrara for a discussion on the environmental issues and sustainability efforts within Central Florida, as well as IDEAS For Us, a nationally recognized environmental nonprofit located in Orlando.
4:00PM: Jennifer Mitchell, Ph.D., Public Communications Coordinator, St. Johns River Water Management District
Join Jennifer Mitchell for an enlightening talk about Florida's incredible water resources and what you can do to protect and preserve its waterways. Learn about how community participation and the efforts SJRWMD are working to protect our natural water resources and ensuring enough water for people and nature.