Dire report on state water supply

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Because of drought and water withdrawals, the state is having trouble managing water supplies.
That was the message presented by water district officials at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.
Three representatives from the Suwannee River Water Management District showed up to tell the commission about a relatively new partnership between SRWMD, the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection aimed at finding solutions to the state’s approaching water crisis.
“Water is critical to our quality of life,” said SRWMD’s John Dinges at the meeting. The water management districts are tasked with protecting water, he said, while, at the same time, making it available for all who need it. “We have concerns about our water supply,” he said, though adding that Levy County is not considered a high priority right now in terms of water shortages. “But it may be in the future.”
Two weeks ago, the partnership, known as the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership, met in Alachua to announce it was looking for six stakeholders from various industries with an interest in water to take part in an advisory committee.
Representatives from the different agencies said it’s hoped the partnership, along with interested stakeholders, can come up with a solution.
Tuesday, Dinges repeated that message, explaining that the goal of the collaboration is to share data and resources in an attempt to streamline the process of identifying and solving the key issues.
Dinges said the partnership, through shared science, will try to determine how neighboring water districts impact each other, how water levels are affected and to what extent water withdrawals verses drought play in shortages.
Dinges said the partnership hopes to have a shared groundwater model by June 2014. “It’s going to take a while to work through the issues,” he said.
Audience member Tana Silva, of Gainesville, said she’s worried the water management districts aren’t doing enough to curb withdrawal.
“Does the district ever say no to water permits?” she asked.
“We do have criteria for regulating consumptive water use,” Dinges said, but, he added, it has to be shown that withdrawal in a specific case would do harm.
For more information on applying for a seat on the stakeholders committee, go to  www.northfloridawater.com. The deadline for submitting applications is April 6.
To listen to an audio recording of the County Commission meeting click here