An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Orange County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Noah Valenstein is new Florida DEP chief

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet Tuesday hired Noah Valenstein as the state's new Department of Environmental Protection secretary.

The 39-year-old Valenstein has spent the past 19 months as the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, an iconic agricultural region of north Florida home to some of the country’s largest freshwater springs.

Environmentalists praised his appointment telling the Cabinet that Valenstein has demonstrated an ability to bring people together and develop a consensus in how to manage natural resources.

Florida's ailing springs subject of clash over how much water to divert for development

All over Florida, clashes are erupting over how much water can be diverted from the state's springs to keep development going. The latest battleground was Tuesday's meeting of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Despite opposition from more than 30 speakers, the water district's board voted 9-1 to allow the flow of Crystal River and the 70 springs that make up Kings Bay to be cut by up to 11 percent.

The agency's staff believes it can increase the pumping of groundwater to cut the flow by that much without causing "significant damage" to the environment. Of particular concern in Crystal River and Kings Bay: the ecosystem is home to hundreds of manatees that seek refuge in the bay.

A 2016 state law has pushed Swiftmud and the other water districts around the state to set "minimum flows" for Florida's iconic springs before July 1. But each time, springs advocates, environmental activists and neighbors of the springs have contended that the springs are already too impaired to allow any more water to be diverted to development.

During Tuesday's meeting, opponents of Swiftmud's 11 percent proposal talked about how Kings Bay and Crystal River have already seen a steep drop in their flow, and how that has fueled an increase in pollution and toxic algae blooms.

The Pace of Sea-Level Rise Has Tripled Since 1990, New Study Shows

Virtually all 2.5 million Miami-Dade residents live on land that's less than ten feet above sea level. In terms of real-estate assets vulnerable to flooding, Miami is the second most exposed city on Earth, behind only Guangzhou, China. And Miami is basically the poster child for the effects of climate change, because the city has already begun flooding on sunny days.

But now a new study shows the seas are actually rising three times faster as they were in the 1990s.

Using a new satellite technique, the study in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that before 1990, the ocean was rising at a rate of roughly 1.1 millimeter per year. From 1990 to 2012, however, that rate spiked to 3.1 millimeters per year. Though that rate might still seem small, even a rise of a few millimeters worldwide can lead to increased flooding events or more deadly storm surges at an alarming pace.

Importantly, the study's authors claim the new data — first reported by the Washington Post — shows that scientists had previously underestimated how fast the oceans were rising before 1990, before widespread satellite data was available.

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (NE Finger Canals), 5/26/17

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 05/26/17. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Algae in the canals. WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 2 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application at Lake Cypress Estes, 5/25/2017

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Environmental Advisory:

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 05/25/17. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Hydrilla in the lake. WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY. DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 2 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Florida Water Star awards six participants for water conservation efforts

Florida Water Star(SM) presented six awards to local organizations and individuals for their work to further water conservation. Developed by the St. Johns River Water Management District and launched in 2007, the Florida Water Star program provides water conservation certification for homes, entire communities and commercial developments.

"Florida Water Star's legacy of water conservation is felt statewide," said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. "We see water conservation as a crucial tactic for meeting future water demands, so we're excited to recognize the work of our partners who are champions for conservation."

Six awards recognized a variety of achievements in water conservation across Florida.

  • Private Builder Award -- On Top of the World in Ocala
  • Nonprofit Builder Award -- Florida Home Partnership in Ruskin
  • Program Partner Award -- Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, in Orlando
  • Training Partner Award -- Kurt Thompson and Associates in Orlando
  • Certification Program Partner Award -- Florida Green Building Coalition in Tallahassee
  • Program Certifier Award -- Nathan Ritter with GreenBuilt Solutions in Orlando

In its first 10 years, 4,100 residences received water conservation certification through the program. The number of certifications being sought increased by 200 percent last year, from 79 homes in 2015 to 283 homes in 2016.

SJRWMD encourages HOAs to use water wisely during the current water shortage

On May 16, the St. Johns River Water Management district sent the letter below to HOAs within its jurisdiction.

On May 9, the St. Johns River Water Management District expanded a Water Shortage Warning for its 18-county service area due to below-average rainfall. The order includes all of Brevard, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties, and parts of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Lake, Marion, Okeechobee, Orange and Osceola counties.

The objective of the Water Shortage Warning Order is to reduce water use and increase awareness of the need for water conservation. Although conditions have not yet reached a point where there is an expectation of insufficient water to meet anticipated demand and protect water resources, current conditions do warrant heightened water conservation.

For many residential water users, the greatest water savings can be realized outdoors, where more than half of residential water is used on lawns and landscapes.

Understanding that many Homeowner Associations and residents address irrigation and landscaping via their Deed Restrictions and Covenants, we are asking for your support to promote water conservation with specific attention to how water is used outdoors.

As we prepare for the potential of prolonged drought, there are many actions that can help ensure the most efficient use of water, thus extending our potable water supply, until summer rains return.

  • Postpone any recommendations to sod or re-sod landscapes, as new sod requires increased irrigation for successful establishment.
  • Postpone any recommendations for extensive pressure-washing projects, which use significant amounts of water.
  • Please help us ensure residents are aware of watering restrictions. Year-round watering restrictions are in place to ensure that water used for irrigation is used efficiently, and specifies the days and hours to water lawns. Current irrigation is allowed between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. and the designated watering days depend on whether you have an odd or even numbered address. Printable materials and information about watering restrictions are available online at

Water conservation is the cornerstone of Florida's water sustainability -- the district believes that conservation is a critical strategy in meeting the current and future water supply needs of our state. If you would like to schedule a water conservation presentation for your group, please contact Jennifer Mitchell, Public Communication Coordinator, at 904-730-6283 or

Water shortage warning for all of SJRWMD expected next week

A lack of rain throughout the region has the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) contemplating its first districtwide water shortage warning in more than a decade.

On March 14, the district governing board issued a warning order for portions of Nassau, Flagler, Baker, Clay, Putnam, Marion and Lake counties. At next week’s meeting, there is an agenda item that would expand the warning to the entire district, which includes St. Johns County.

“It’s a request to ask folks, whether they be residents, homeowners, commercial/industrial (property owners), to take additional steps to conserve water,” said Kraig McLane, the district’s water shortage team leader. “A big part of this level is really to heighten awareness. We’re not at a point where we’re seeing critical shortages or large problems.”

The objective of a water shortage warning order, according to SJRWMD, is to reduce water use and ensure enough water is available to meet demand. A release from the district said conditions have not yet reached a point where there is an expectation of insufficient water to meet anticipated demand.

But district staff is recommending conservation efforts be put in place.

Pollution notice bill inspired by sinkhole passes Legislature

A bill requiring industry and government to notify the public quickly of any pollution problems has passed both houses of the Legislature and is headed for Gov. Rick Scott. Scott, who called for the change in the law, will definitely sign it.

The bill, SB 532, was inpsired by the sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant and St. Petersburg's sewage disaster.

The sinkhole, in particular, drove Scott's desire for the bill. When it opened up in August 2016 and swallowed 215 million gallons of contaminated water, dumping it into the aquifer, neither Mosaic nor Scott's own Department of Environmental Proteciton told the public about it for three weeks. The reason? State law did not require them to do so unless the pollution was detected outside the polluter's property boundaries. Mosaic (but not the DEP) later apologized for the delay.

The delay in St. Petersburg officials reporting the tens of millions of gallons of sewage that the city's aging wastewater system released into Tampa Bay after Hurricane Hermine bothered Scott as well.

Florida drinking water ranks among nation’s worst, study finds

7.5 million: The number of people in Florida served by water treatment plants with safe water violations

Read more here: Floridians are exposed to unsafe drinking water than just about anywhere in the country, according to a new study of violations.

The state ranked second in the number of people impacted by violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act based on the most recent data available from 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council said. Nationally, 77 million people were exposed to unsafe water, with violations including high levels or toxic arsenic, lead and other chemicals, as well as failure to test or report contamination.

The study, a follow-up to an examination of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., comes as the Trump administration considers drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces the law.

“The problem is two-fold: there’s no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we’re living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure,” Erik Olson, NRDC’s health program director, said in a statement. “We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country.”

To compile the data, the nonprofit looked at the most recent, comprehensive data and ranked states based on the number of people exposed to unsafe water. That could skew findings to heavily populated states, but even as a percentage, Florida ranked in the top ten, said NRDC spokesman Alex Frank.

Fertilizer-maker tests reconnection to Apopka wastewater plant

Anuvia Plant Nutrients may reconnect its $100-million fertilizer operation to Apopka’s wastewater-treatment plant Monday, about two months after the company was ordered to stop piping its discharge to the facility.

Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and Anuvia CEO Amy Yoder said the city and the company have worked together to find solutions despite differences over causes that led to a temporary shutdown of Anuvia’s operation, which makes fertilizer used by farmers, at golf courses and on the turf at Orlando City’s soccer stadium.

After an 11-day shutdown, the company resumed limited production in mid-March under an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The state required Anuvia to treat, test and monitor any wastewater discharged in a spray field near its facility on Jones Avenue, about a mile west of U.S. Highway 441.

Under terms of a new agreement, the company and the city will closely monitor a pre-treatment protocol and a pre-treatment system installed at the Anuvia plant.

The two sides hope to begin a live test on the safeguards Monday.