The Amy H Remley Foundation  

The future of our fresh water is in our hands.

August 14, 2011.

Printed on page C1 of the Citrus County Chronicle.

The Crystal River/ Kings Bay Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) – Final Approved Plan of July 10, 2000, on page 46, records a total spring flow into Kings Bay of 975 cfs or 630 million gallons a day (mgd). The same SWIM report describes how residence times of nutrients increase as flow rates decrease in drought conditions magnifying their impact upon biota of all kinds growing in the waters.

Kings Bay springs have had their water flow reduced by one third over the past two decades, to 410 mgd measured by a scientific study published in 2010. The source of the degradation is thus in plain sight and all around us. As water flow rates have receded unfortunately the chief polluting culprit – Nitrogen – has not.

A recent Florida Geographical Survey report authored by Rick Copeland and a team of scientists also concludes with this truth as due to drought and over pumping.

The major source of Nitrogen in the air we breathe falls to ground in rainfall over Citrus County to the tune of some 1,150 tons a year, on average. Traditionally most is absorbed by soils and taken up by vegetation. However, replacing vegetation with concrete and other impermeable surfaces interrupts the natural functions and waters run off to convey Nitrogen and other pollutants swept along with the flow into the groundwater source of spring outflows. All but 80 or so tons a year of this atmospheric Nitrogen are returned to the atmosphere by the plants and trees.

Similarly, more than 600 tons of manufactured Nitrogen fertilizers are applied annually to Citrus County's domestic land surfaces, golf courses, employed in agriculture and from spreading sewage effluent onto the land.

Nitrogen delivered directly underground from the totality of the thousands of on site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS or septic systems). throughout Citrus County exceeds 212 tons of Nitrates a year. The scientific report published in 1994, from which these figures are taken, highlights the priority capture and treatment of this source of nitrates.

Technological advances since 1994, allow methane from the anaerobic digester gas (ADG) to be the fuel in fuel cell systems to provide electrical power to operate the wastewater treatment facility (automatically switching to natural gas fuel when necessary) with high energy, process and economic efficiencies.

Not only would such a development reduce the nitrate content of spring discharges and assist recovery of water quality in our coastal river systems, but using the reclaimed water in place of pumping prime water from the aquifer will help sustain our fresh water supplies for our children. Should we fail to do so we stand to forfeit our fresh water "lens" as has happened on Florida's east coast.

Without dealing with the balance of Nitrogen to match the reduced rates of spring discharge, messing with biotic systems in Kings Bay would not be sustainable longer term.

Norman Hopkins, Amy H Remley Foundation.

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