Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Everything Is Connected -- Duval & St. Johns development threatens water quality. (Katrina Hill, Folio Weekly)

Here's a powerful column by UF graduate student Katrina Hill from Folio Weekly.  In the words of a play called "House Rules," it is axiomatic that "Florida ain't nothin' but one big sandbar."  Our Floridan Aquifer must be preserved and protected.  Greedy foreign investors have had their way with our forests,  wetlands and water for too long.  Enough already!  From Folio Weekly:


Everything Is Connected

Duval & St. Johns development threatens water quality

Looking around Northeast Florida, it’s easy to see why people want to move here. We have beautiful beaches, great schools, excellent parks and a deep natural history. What’s also easy to see is the increasing amount of development this area is undergoing, particularly in Duval and St. Johns counties. Large planned communities are the order of the day; there’s Nocatee and RiverTown in St. Johns County, and the new development eTown in southern Duval County. Together they cover several thousand acres. Construction of these communities involves a lot of earth-moving and land-clearing. Such intensive activities can profoundly change the natural environment and surrounding area. Everything is connected.
Development especially affects water quality. Undeveloped land has intact soil, trees and vegetative cover. These features are great at taking up water, filtering it, and acting as a buffer to keep water from running off the land. When these features are disturbed or removed due to development, water has a greater potential to become runoff. This can lead to turbid water that can have an adverse effect on water-based life and ultimately the ecosystem. In addition, if there are wetlands on the undeveloped parcels of land, then they may have been the point of drainage for stormwater flowing over the land. Wetlands are an excellent natural feature; they provide the needed function of retention and filtration, but increased development in or near natural wetlands could reduce their capacity to adequately retain and filter stormwater. When wetlands are removed, something else must take its place to provide the same function and hopefully provide the same ecosystem services.
Over the past year, water quality concerns have been brought to the forefront. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has taken this concern seriously and signed Executive Order 19-12, which directed the establishment of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, among many other environmental related actions. The Task Force identified stormwater runoff, along with other potential sources, as a source of nutrients that drives blue-green algae blooms. With increased development, there will be a greater need for effective stormwater management that will adequately capture and retain water running off paved and unpaved surfaces, and reduce the amount of nutrients and pollutants entering water bodies. Including stormwater runoff as a possible contributor to algae blooms is an important step in addressing the overall problem.
With an increasing population and the continuing development of planned communities and businesses, it will be even more important to get a handle on stormwater runoff and water quality. We need to educate ourselves on what stormwater runoff is and what it does to our waterways and water-based life. We also need to recognize what the long-term effects of land-use change will have on the natural landscape and ecosystem of our communities, such as the loss of wetlands. Water is an important part of who we are and what we do as Floridians, so it would be in our best interest to figure out the issue of development and water quality sooner rather than later.
Hill is a graduate student at the University of Florida.

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