On developing Florida's Big Spring as water-supply resources

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On developing Florida's Big Spring as water-supply resources

Material Information

On developing Florida's Big Spring as water-supply resources
Parker, Garald G. (Garald Gordon), 1905-2000
Physical Location:
Box 2


Subjects / Keywords:
Aquifers -- Hydrogeology -- Everglades (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Hydrology -- Florida -- Biscayne Aquifer (Fla.) ( lcsh )

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
The University of South Florida Libraries believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries.
Resource Identifier:
032968560 ( ALEPH )
891343127 ( OCLC )
G16-00675 ( USFLDC DOI )
g16.675 ( USFLDC Handle )

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' t 7 fJQ!:i THE DESK Olc1 THE CHIEF 1J.YDROL~IS1' : a s W ater-Supply S ourc~s.' Ou Developing Florida's eig Spring The question has been raised rn:1.ny times recently and with good reason: asking why St • • 'Petersburg, which owns Weeki \-Jnchcc Spring on the Gulf Coast in llcrnnndo Ccm1t~/, should not develop the spring as a source of municipal water supply. Aftet all, the reas~ning goes, St. Petersburg Ci.lrrcnt ly ne.eds only /f0-50 mgd (mil lions of gallons a day), less than haH of Weeki \fachec' s avcr;ig~ flow of about 100 rngd and this 100 mgd should suffice St. Petersburg's growth for many years to come, perhaps for all time. Why, then, should St. P~tersburg choose to develop large wcll-f ie lds in nearby Hillsborough and Pasco Counties resulting in reduction of the water supplies a.va.ilnble for Hillsborough and Pasco County residents and businesses, and concomitantly creating local problems including lowered lake levels and dryihg up of shallow wells? This is a legitimate question and argument, one that needs explru1ation. Likewise, related questions have been raised regarding the '\vasted" flow of other big coastal springs such as C1assachowitzka (52 mgd), Homosassa . (120 mgd),:and'.Crystai River (582 mg

. 7 Page 1\-m • have historically existed. Taking all, or even most of the fresh-water discharge of any of these big springs, would result in great changes in and dam3gcs to the flora and fauna of the affected streams, bays and estuaries. This all adds up to the fact that, without additional or new development, the flow of these big springs • • is useful in a nunilier of important ways and each of these has its values monetary values as well as esthetic values. From the foregoing it is apparent that taking some or all of the flow from any of these big springs is not the simple act that many people seem to think it,would be. To take St. Petcrsburg'_ s situation as 110\-mer" of Weeki Wachee Spring for an example, it is apparent that other "owners" besides the city are legally and financially concerned. Every owner of property on the spring, if there be any besides the city, and ori the river from the spring to the Gulf of }~xico, is invested by his riparian rights to undiminished flow past his property and no degradation of the flow caused by acts of any other owners. It would appear, then, that even though St. Petersburg "owns" the sprfng it does not own more than some small and at present undetermined share ofthc flow of the spring upon which the flow of the Weeki Wachee River depends. Unless, of course, St. Petersburg were to buy up all the riparian rights of all property owners from the spring to the gulf. And even were the city to. d _ o this, the.re still is the matter of adver~e ecologic impacts on the flora and fauna that would come from taking any large quantity of spring flow --and thus of l:he stream flow --from Weeki Wachee Spring. Obviously, St. Petersburg cannot put a big pump and suction pipe into the spring, or hui ld a water-di version structure of any other kind that would take all or even. anm~h of the 100 mgd of Weeki Wachee Spring's average flow. How much could. St. Petersburg take? This is a question that would have to be resolved in the courts unless the city were to be satisfied with determinations made or approved by the Southwest Florida Water 'Management District and which, also, would be agreeable to the various affected riparian rights owners and to the several state and federal agencies having some jurisdiction over the flow of navigable streams, the safeguarding of fish and wildlife, and the related land-and water-resources of the area • . . Arriving at their decisions would depend upon findings derived from detailed stud,ies of the hydrology, geology, biology, botany, oceanography and ecology of each big spring and streams involved --studies that have not yet been made or even started. Such studies will not be undertaken lightly and will be both costly and time-consuming but none-the-less necessary. 111en, once the detailed natural conditions are kno\-m. and a decision has been reached regarding how much water can be taken from any or all springs, the engineers can begin the design of pumps, pipelines, and distribution systems to get the water from the springs of origin to the places of use. Obviously, if Weeki Wachee Spring could support only the development, say, of 10 or 15 mgd, a 60-inch water main costing about one million dollars a mile would not be needed to transmit water to St. Petersburg's Cosme-Odessa water-treament plant. Instead, perhap_s a much cheaper 16-inch or 20-inch main would suffice. It follows, then, that basic hydrologic, ecologic and economic studies will have to be made of each and every spring site to determine the quantities of water that each site can yield without interfering with riparian rights of land owners involved or causing ecologic or other environmental damages that cannot be tolei;atcd. I suspect that, as a general rule, most of the water needed to supply our growing populace will not be taken directly from the springs themselves (each spring is simply a large, natural, flowing artesian well) but will be take~ from artesian


r; • • • • • Page 'Three wells drilled at strate.sdcall v located sites up-_gradicnt from the big coastal ~pring_ s so as not to cau.sc additiona l salt-water encroachment in the coastal parts. of the Floridan Aquifer and to prevent any esthetic or financial damages to the springs themselve~. Such strategically located and carefully operated well fields would be the best ,tay to bring about complete development of the potential water resources of the District and would ~e the responsibility of the District to administer and supervise, and would be done on a regional basis with, eventuall~all major sources integrated in one regional water-supply system. I haven't yet gotten around to explaining why St. l'etersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa, Hillsborough County, New Port Richey and others have developed wells and well-fields for supply purposes instead of going greater distances to tap the.flows of the big springs. Principally, it is because it is far cheaperto develop high-grade raw water from w~lls close at hand th~n to invest in high-cost pipe lines to distant springs. Additionally, at the time that ea~h of the existing well fields now in use or under development were conceived, it was not realized by the planning engineers that taking large quantities of water from wells would have serious and long-lasting adverse effects.upon rights of owners of adjaent lands. Not only was it not realized that such effects as the lowering of lake levels, drying up of cypress strands or swamps or reducing the yields of nearby privately-owned wells would occur, but once these things happened it was denied by the engineers and their consultants that the well-fields were the causes. Now, however, water-resources studies made by competent hydrologists have proven t _hat large-scale pumping doe~ create drnwdowns in the aquifers that lower water levels in nc~rby wells, lakes and swamps. Also, quantitative hydrologic studies are currently being made to determine where in the District new large wells and well fields can be properly located and the quantities of water they can be made to produce without either. over-developing the water-resources or harming pre-existing supplies or the environment. Water-management, based on sound scientific, engineering and economic principles can can now be applied --and are being applied in the District under authority of our Rules and Regulations --to secure the maximum benefits of water-resource development ~ith the least adverse environmental effects. In sumrnary, the time will come when all the water-resources of the District will need to be developed, including all that can be taken from the flow of our big springs; and from the brackish coastal ground water for desalination purposes. Such wate~ having chloride conte11t of up to about 5,000 mg/1 is practically unlimited and by use of electrodialysis or reverse osmosis processes can be developed at reasonable costs. Such complete development will have to be carefully planned and. managed so as not io harm human values or the environment and, with the scientific and engineering kno~ledge now available in the District this can be done. But it cannot be done by guess and . . b! gosh, or by rule of thumb guesswork. To be done right , so as to make the utmost use of our water resources, as we know we must do, detailed,basic hydrologic, ecologic and engineering studies will have to be made. The District staff can do the job, with help from the other agencies concerned, _an_ d it is our intent that, as a result of our studies an


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