Ann B. Shortelle of the Suwannee River Water Management Board appeared before the County Commission to present a check for $20,299 to Madison County. SRWMD makes a similar payment every year in lieu of property taxes for property it owns inside the county.
In her remarks preceding the presentation, Shortelle noted that June/July 2014 was one of the driest two-month periods on record, ironically following record rains during the previous 24 months, which in turn had followed a record drought.
Because of the drying conditions of June and July, the aboveground streamflows are in their lowest 10 percentile all the way up into South Georgia. The aquifer however, is in prime condition due to the record rainfalls, and Madison Blue Spring is currently running at a capacity doubling its average output for the last ten years.
The district has also been engaged in improving the efficiency of center pivot irrigation systems, she said, as part of the district’s overall concern with conserving water supply. Currently, she added, about four million gallons of water a day have been permitted within the county, but with conservation efforts and more efficient usage practices, 13 million gallons a day are being saved. Conservation and efficiency are also saving nearly one-and-a-half million pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per year.
This followed a 2010 SRWMD Water Supply Assessment that outlined what she referred to as a “draw-down regional stress effect” resulting from back-to-back droughts in the area. The effect was felt all the way to Florida’s east coast.
SRWMD is now partnering with other regional water management boards, she said, all of them realizing that “this particular area would have issues if we did nothing in our 20-year plan,” which includes strategic priorities for the water supply, natural water systems, and flood protection. She also outlined several opportunities for communities in the district, including river coast sharing, agricultural cost sharing, public private partnerships and high school grants to get students involved in learning the process of smart management and conservation of the area’s water resources.
The District is hosting a Regional Initiative Valuing Environmental Resources (RIVER) Workshop, Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m. at its headquarters in Live Oak (9225 County Road 49 in Live Oak). The workshop is open to the public and all interested citizens are invited to come and observe the proceedings. For more information about the workshop, contact Patrick Webster at (386) 362-1001, or email him at: PJW@srwmd.org. For more information about the Suwannee River Water Management District in general, visit the website at http://www.srwmd.state.fl.us.