Review of the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study:
Final Report

Committee to Review the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study

Water Science and Technology Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
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Review of the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study: Final Report Committee to Review the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study Water Science and Technology Board Division on Earth and Life Studies THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the panel responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this study was provided by the St. Johns River Water Management District under grant SLOC-25123. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-22567-0 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-22567-1 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 5th Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE ST. JOHNS RIVER WATER SUPPLY IMPACT STUDY PATRICK L. BREZONIK, Chair, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis M. SIOBHAN FENNESSY, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio BEN R. HODGES, University of Texas, Austin JAMES R. KARR, University of Washington, Seattle MARK S. PETERSON, University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs JAMES L. PINCKNEY, University of South Carolina, Columbia JORGE I. RESTREPO, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton ROLAND C. STEINER, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Laurel, Maryland J. COURT STEVENSON, University of Maryland, Cambridge NRC STAFF LAURA J. EHLERS, Study Director STEPHANIE E. JOHNSON, Interim Study Director (February to July 2009) MICHAEL J. STOEVER, Research Associate SARAH E. BRENNAN, Senior Program Assistant v

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WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD DONALD I. SIEGEL, Chair, Syracuse University, New York LISA ALVAREZ-COHEN, University of California, Berkeley EDWARD J. BOUWER, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland YU-PING CHIN, Ohio State University, Columbus OTTO C. DOERING, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana M. SIOBHAN FENNESSY, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio BEN GRUMBLES, Clean Water America Alliance, Washington, D.C. GEORGE R. HALLBERG, The Cadmus Group, Watertown, Massachusetts KENNETH R. HERD, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Brooksville, Florida GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee KIMBERLY L. JONES, Howard University, Washington, D.C. LARRY LARSON, Association of State Floodplain Managers, Madison, Wisconsin DAVID H. MOREAU, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill DENNIS D. MURPHY, University of Nevada, Reno MARYLYNN V. YATES, University of California, Riverside STAFF STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director JEFFREY W. JACOBS, Scholar LAURA J. EHLERS, Senior Program Officer STEPHANIE E. JOHNSON, Senior Program Officer LAURA E. HELSABECK, Program Officer M. JEANNE AQUILINO, Financial and Administrative Associate ANITA A. HALL, Senior Program Associate MICHAEL J. STOEVER, Research Associate SARAH E. BRENNAN, Senior Program Assistant vi

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Preface The tremendous population growth experienced by Florida over the past half century has imposed correspondingly large stresses on and costs to the state’s natural resources, including its abundant but ecologically fragile water resources. As a whole, the state’s population almost quadrupled over the past 50 years—from 4.95 million in 1960 to 18.8 million in 2010. Although much of the growth has been focused along or near Florida’s very long coastline, the interior parts of the state also have shared in the boom. For example, metropolitan Orlando, which lies in the southwest part of the St. Johns River basin that is the focus of the study reviewed in this report, has grown from fewer than 340,000 people in 1960 to an urban/suburban conglomerate of more than 2.1 million people spread over several counties and many hundreds of square miles. Population growth has stressed drinking water supplies in many parts of Florida. In 2008, for example, the Tampa Bay area opened a 25 MGD (million gallons per day) desalination plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in the United States. In the St. Johns River basin, a 2005-2006 water supply planning study conducted by the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD, hereafter referred to as the District) showed that increasing water withdrawals from the Upper Floridan Aquifer—the principal groundwater supply of the basin and most of peninsular Florida—beyond those projected to occur by 2013 would lead to undesirable declines in the aquifer’s piezometric surface. The planning study was conducted as part of the District’s dual responsibility to provide water supplies for human uses in the basin and to protect its water resources. The District concluded that the predicted decline in the aquifer’s piezometric surface would lead to unacceptable levels of harm to native vegetation in large areas of the drainage basin. As a consequence, the District began to consider alternative sources of supply for the population growth that was expected in the region. These sources included recycling and reuse of wastewater and a variety of water conservation measures, but the District concluded that these would not be sufficient and thus began to consider surface water withdrawals from the St. Johns River and its major tributary, the Ocklawaha River. A major two-phase study on the potential environmental impacts of such water withdrawals was initiated by the District in 2008 and is scheduled for completion in early 2012. Involving more than 80 technical staff and consultants, the study, which became known in 2009 as the Water Supply Impact Study, or WSIS, has been an unusually comprehensive examination of the hydrologic and hydrodynamic changes that would occur as a result of water withdrawals from the rivers and a wide range of environmental and ecological consequences that could ensue. In late 2008, just as the WSIS was transitioning from the Phase 1 review of existing information to the full-scale assessment activities in Phase 2, the District requested that the National Research Council (NRC) form a committee to provide independent review and ongoing advice vii

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viii Preface regarding the impact study. Typical of NRC committees, the composition of the “Committee to Review the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study” was designed to be highly multidisciplinary. Its nine members were selected for their expertise across the range of scientific and engineering disciplines involved in the WSIS, and each of them brought along a broader perspective as environmental scientists and engineers that was invaluable to the Committee’s work. I have been privileged to serve as the Committee’s chair since its first meeting in Jacksonville in January 2009. The Committee thus has followed the WSIS process since the end of the first phase of the study. From the outset, the Committee viewed its primary role as advisory to an ongoing study rather than merely critiquing some completed body of work. The Committee conducted its responsibilities with vigor, producing four formal reports (including this one) over the course of its nearly three years of operation, and also providing oral advice at six formal meetings with the District’s staff and through roughly twice the number of conference calls devoted to the progress and issues of specific workgroups. Members of the Committee thus devoted a large amount of their time over the past three years to reviewing the WSIS study, and I want to thank them for their efforts and for the collegiality exhibited in the closed session discussions and in questions to District scientists. I especially want to thank the following committee members: Ben Hodges for his ability to digest and explain to the rest of the Committee the huge work products and detailed reports of the Hydrology and Hydrodynamics workgroup, which were critical to understanding the potential environmental impacts of water withdrawals; Siobhan Fennessy for her willingness to do “double duty” in reviewing the work of both the wetlands workgroup and the wetlands wildlife workgroup; and Mark Peterson for leading the estuarine benthos review in addition to the considerable workload understanding impacts to fish. On behalf of the Committee, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the members of the District who participated in the Committee’s review of the WSIS. We especially thank the leadership team: Tom Bartol, Director, Bureau of Water Supply, Ed Lowe, Senior Scientist and Director, Bureau of Environmental Services, and Mike Cullum, Director, Bureau of Engineering. We appreciate their hospitality and their efforts to ensure that the formal meetings were useful and informative to the Committee. We also appreciate the efforts of the eight workgroup leaders to provide instructive briefings on their groups’ progress: Mike Coveney, plankton; Donna Curtis, wetland wildlife; Dean Dobberfuhl, littoral zone, submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV); Larry Keenan, biogeochemistry; Palmer Kinser, wetlands; Rob Mattson, benthos; Steve Miller, fish; and Pete Sucsy, hydrodynamics and hydrology. Their responsiveness in answering questions and their openness and willingness to accept suggestions from the Committee is much appreciated. In conjunction with formal meetings, the Committee participated in four enlightening and enjoyable field trips on different sections of the St. Johns River. Workgroup leaders and other WSIS technical staff participated in these trips and were helpful in describing the system to the Committee. We appreciate the efforts made by the following people in planning and guiding these field trips: Tom Bartol, Ima Bujak, Robert Burks, Dean Dobberfuhl, Dina Hutchens, and Michelle Lacasse. We also thank Tom Bartol, Dean Campbell, Michael Coveney, Michael Cullum, Dean Dobberfuhl, Sonny Hall, John Hendrickson, Jane Mace, Erich Marzolf, and Peter Sucsy for technical presentations during the trips. Completion of the Committee’s work would not have been possible without the stellar efforts of the project’s study director, Laura Ehlers. Her powers to organize, ask relevant and probing questions, synthesize, and keep the committee on track with completing its tasks are truly remarkable, and they were invaluable for the successful completion of the Committee’s

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Preface ix tasks. We also thank Stephanie Johnson for keeping the Committee in fine operating mettle while Laura was on maternity leave. Meeting and travel logistics were ably arranged by Michael Stoever and, for one meeting, Sarah Brennan. This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of the independent review is to provide candid and critical comments to assist the NRC in making its published reports as sound as possible and to ensure that they meet institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following persons for their review of this report: Emily Bernhardt, Duke University; Matthew Cohen, University of Florida; Wendy Graham, University of Florida; Michael Kavanaugh, Geosyntec Consultants; Judy Meyer, University of Georgia (retired); Jayantha Obeysekera, South Florida Water Management District; and Ernst Peebles (University of South Florida). These reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, which we gratefully acknowledge. They were not asked to endorse the conclusions and recommendations, however, and they did not see the final draft of the report before its release. The review process for this report was overseen by Jerome Gilbert, NAE, who was appointed by the NRC to verify that the independent review was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of the report, however, rests with the Committee and the National Research Council. Patrick Brezonik, Committee Chair

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Contents SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 11 Origin of the Water Supply Impact Study, 11 Conclusions of Previous NRC Reports, 14 The St. Johns River Basin, 17 Report Roadmap, 18 References, 18 2 HYDROLOGY AND HYDRODYNAMICS 19 Withdrawal Scenarios, 19 Groundwater Models, 22 Hydrologic Modeling, 24 Hydrodynamic Model Calibration and Confirmation, 25 Hydrodynamic Model Results, 34 Conclusions and Recommendations, 35 References, 35 3 REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL WORKGROUP REPORTS 37 Introduction, 37 Wetlands, 41 Biogeochemistry, 48 Plankton, 56 Littoral Zone: Submersed Aquatic Vegetation, 62 Benthos, 69 Fish, 80 Wetlands Wildlife, 88 References, 93 4 OVERARCHING THEMES AND CONCLUSIONS 96 Summary of Results and General Conclusions, 96 Study Scope and Constraints, 101 Lessons for Future Studies of a Similar Nature, 103 References, 105 xi

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