St. Johns water district sells us out to Big Business!

Scott Maxwell | TAKING NAMES (Orlando Sentinel) March 29, 2009

The campaign being waged by the St. Johns River Water Management District is quite simple: “Do your part to save water.”

Unfortunately, the district itself doesn’t seem interested in following its own advice.

Next week, St. Johns will go before a judge and fight — not for your right to water, but to give it to a bottled-water company that wants to drain nearly half a million gallons every day.

Yes, the same district that claims water is too scarce for you to irrigate your lawn when you choose also wants to let an out-of-state company use 177million gallons a year — for profit.

Talk about a disconnect.

To put 177 million gallons in perspective, would you like to guess how many years your family would have to use the kind of low-flow shower heads recommended by the district to save the same amount Niagara wants to take in a year? More than 22,000.

Heck, 177 million gallons is more water than what’s used each year by a park — and I mean a water park. OUC records show Wet ‘n Wild used less than half that in a year.

Niagara points to the 200 jobs it will create as a justification for it sticking a jumbo-sized straw into the reservoir beneath Lake County.

But Groveland Mayor Richard Smith notes that more than a dozen existing businesses — including an office park, professional plaza and entire hospital — all combined use only a fraction of the water Niagara wants.

“On a gallon-per-job basis, they can’t hold water,” he said.

He asked that we pardon the pun.

Smith and his small city may be the only thing that can stop Niagara from quenching its thirst at the expense of our groundwater supply. The city is the lone ranger challenging the company and the water-management district in front of an administrative law judge, starting April 6.

The image will be revealing.

On one side of the room will be the mayor and taxpayers of Groveland, using their own resources to try to protect a natural resource for us all.

On the other will be the water-management district that supposedly exists largely for that very reason: to protect natural resources. And yet that publicly funded agency won’t be on the same side of the room as the rest of the public. It will be arm-in-arm with the big corporation.

For now, the staff has recommended the permit. The final call will be up to the district board.

There are certainly legitimate debates to be held about water use in general. If you stop Niagara from taking the water only to allow another sprawling community that will increase demands on water and other services, there isn’t much gain.

The district — and local leaders in general — need to do a better job of deciding precisely how they want to use our diminishing resources.

But right now, it simply strains credibility for the district to wag fingers at local residents for personal consumption while simultaneously fighting to give away much more to a company that will both export its product and pocket its profits in a location far, far away.

Scott Maxwell can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-6141

Till next time tight lines and good fishing….
From Bass Online Staff Writer / 888-829-BASS is Florida Fishing largest Freshwater Guide Service, specializing in Florida bass fishing in the Florida lakes, canals and rivers.

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