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Florida needs to protect limited water resources

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 08:11

Since elementary school days, the same phrases have been drilled into our heads: Don’t let the water run. Take shorter showers. Use less water.

But according to the Tampa Bay Times, Floridians use 158 gallons of water per person each day — that’s 50 more than the national average — and Florida’s water resources have been depleting for decades, leaving some freshwater springs dry and drastically reducing the flow rate of others.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) latest report on Florida water resources states that the 2005 average of 158 gallons per person declined from 174 gallons in 2000. In general, per capita water use is trending downward, and the reduction in use is attributed to conservation and changing landscaping techniques.

This is a good sign, considering 52 percent of groundwater used in 2005 was used for public supply, according to the USGS, but more should be done to ensure that the trend continues downward.

The issue is larger than public use, and efforts at the state level started by former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush to curb the deterioration of Florida’s springs have been cut since Gov. Rick Scott took office.

According to the Times, “groups drafting plans to restore some of the most important springs were disbanded because they lost their funding.”

An $11 million allotment has been made for “restoration, outreach, monitoring and research,” according to the Times, yet $8 million of that has gone toward a pollution monitoring system and most of the rest is being used for fertilizer technology and improving sewage systems.

Florida needs to get its priorities straight, and scientists who are aware of Florida’s water issues need to be given a real voice that can change the future of Florida springs.

Perhaps it’s hard for Scott to understand diminishing springs when he’s cooped up in a Tallahassee office all day, and he would do well to follow in Bush’s footsteps and go for a morning on the Ichetucknee Springs.

But Scott isn’t the only one to blame.

Cutting down on residential water usage — Floridians used 95 gallons per day per person in 2005 — is a key element in the issue, one way that every person can participate and make a difference in Florida’s springs. Large public institutions, including USF, would also do well to reduce water usage by landscaping with Florida-friendly plants that do not need constant watering.

This isn’t just an issue for environmentalists — it’s an issue for all Floridians, and reducing water use can be done with a simple yet concerted effort from every person. It starts at the residential level, but harsh statewide changes are long overdue.

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