Suwannee River Water Management District | RiverFronts e-Newsletter
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Suwannee River Water Management District
Major Accomplishments for 2019

The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) is looking back on the year and reviewing the major accomplishments of protecting north-central Florida's water resources. The District appreciates the staff, local partners and communities who have contributed to the continued success of conserving and protecting the rivers and springs.

Road under water sign on a road that is partially covered in water.

Flood Protection

Harnessing Peak Flows of Water to Protect Our Communities and Augment Our Aquifer

  • There are 2.1 million acres within the 100-year floodplain in the District. The District currently has 10% (219,615 acres) of the total acreage under ownership or conservation easement.
  • The District worked with Bradford County and City of Starke officials to identify projects throughout the county that would reduce natural resource and property loss due to flooding. Additionally, in 2018 the county received United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and District funding to remove hurricane debris from Alligator Creek, Sampson River, and their tributaries to mitigate flooding. In 2019, the project was completed.
  • The District continues use of its Current River and Lake Levels webpage to maintain flood warning awareness. This page was operated and updated throughout the ongoing 2018/2019 El Niño event and coastal groundwater flooding events. It is one of the most visited locations on the District webpage.
  • New FEMA flood risk maps were completed for Dixie, Levy, and Taylor counties.
  • The District completed flood protection improvements for 42,266 acres in Suwannee, Dixie, Lafayette, and Bradford counties.
The upper Suwannee River looping around the corner with sandy banks and mature trees along the edges.

Natural Systems

Maintaining the Ecosystem Services Provided by the Natural Resources of the District

  • As of December 2018, 292.2 riverine miles contain a minimum flow and minimum water level (MFL). Tributaries of major rivers not mentioned in a rule were not included in the total mileage. In addition, 41 springs are protected by MFLs.
  • Rulemaking for the Steinhatchee River and Priority Springs MFL was completed in August 2019.
  • The District continues to work on developing MFLs for all remaining priority water bodies per the District schedule.
  • The District entered into four RIVER agreements to enhance natural system protection and restoration. These projects will remove an estimated 800 pounds of Total Nitrogen and 4,000 pounds of sediment from wetlands and springs and remove the potential for contamination of estuaries.
  • 1,638 acres of forested and herbaceous wetlands were rehydrated in the Middle Suwannee River and Springs Restoration and Aquifer Recharge Project.
  • Rock Bluff Springs was opened for public use through a management agreement with Alachua Conservation Trust.
Clear, blue spring on the Withlacoochee river surrounded by a large cypress tree and vegetation.

Water Quality

Preserving and Restoring the Foundation of North Florida's Economy

  • Five of the 14 Outstanding Florida Springs meet the requirements for state numeric nutrient criteria based on current available data - Poe, Columbia, Treehouse, Ichetucknee Springs Group and Wacissa Springs group.
  • The District’s Agriculture Cost-Share Program reduced 119,000 pounds of total nitrogen applications between two programs – fertigation equipment and dairy wastewater system upgrades.
  • The District’s Precision Agriculture cost-share program, which covers 64,855 acres within the District, committed all the Springs Grant funding received for FY 2017 and some of the funding received in 2019, resulting in an estimated reduction of 1.9 million pounds of total nitrogen from being applied. 
  • An estimated total of 47,003 pounds of total nitrogen loading was reduced in 2019 for RIVER and non-agricultural cost share projects.
  • The District continues to engage and lead the Suwannee River Partnership which works to overcome water quality challenges in the Suwannee River Valley by pooling resources with sister agencies and cooperating stakeholder groups who have similar goals for water quality throughout the District.
  • The District removed just over 7.5 tons of debris from locations along the Suwannee River to improve water quality and reduce flood risk.

An open field with corn just starting to grow and a clear, blue sky.

Water Supply

Ensuring a Sustainable Supply of Water for People and the Environment

  • The District continues to secure funding for water resource development projects listed in or supporting the North Florida Regional Water Supply Initiative and North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan. These projects have targeted the Suwannee and Santa Fe basins in this District and Region 1 of SJRWMD.
  • The Governing Board extended Water Supply Planning Areas based on the 2015-2035 Water Supply Assessment which allowed District staff to begin developing projects and planning in areas where water supply demand is expected to impact resources by 2035.
  • As of December 2018, the District monitored 98% of eligible agricultural Water Use Permits either by manual or automated monitoring. This makes up 57% of total agricultural water use allocations in the District (205.4 MGD/~360 MGD). The remaining 43% of agricultural water use allocations will become eligible for a monitoring condition in the course of a permit modification or permit renewal.
  • For RIVER and non-agricultural cost-share SPRINGS projects, the District made water supply improvements saving 2.06 MGD in the District.
  • In 2019, the District’s Agriculture Cost-Share Program conserved 4.63 MGD of groundwater between three programs – Irrigation System Retrofits and Controllers, Soil Moisture Probes, and Dairy Wastewater System Upgrades.
  • The District entered into an agreement in Dixie County to transition 65 contaminated domestic self-supply wells to a municipal system and provide for 17 future connections.
Suwannee River Water Management District sign outside the headquarter office.

Mission Support

Creating a Culture of Excellence, Efficiency, and Passion for the Region's Resources

  • District houses 11 professionally licensed staff and 37 professional certifications. Staff hold four associate degrees, 29 undergraduate degrees, 18 graduate degrees and two doctoral degrees. Four staff are working toward master’s degree programs using the District’s tuition reimbursement program. Forty-eight staff are members of professional development organizations.
  • Based on the FY 2019 Adopted Budget, approximately 78% of the budget was spent on water quality, water supply and natural systems projects.
  • The District is continuing to update facilities to meet ADA compliance, improve interior structures, correct exterior roofing issues, and improving air quality with annual duct cleaning.
  • The District partnered with FDACS, FDEP, and UF IFAS to establish a Suwannee River Partnership coordinator position with the goal of increasing education and outreach to area producers and stakeholders from the Partnership’s platform.
  • The District was awarded a $500,000 grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and FDEP for non-point source pollution education and outreach. The grant will include a regional outreach campaign that is expected to kick off in early 2020.
  • The District participated in the 2019 Statewide Springs Outreach Campaign with the other water management districts and FDEP in an effort to bring awareness to springs and springs’ issues. Over the course of the 90-day campaign, the District posted content to three social media platforms, increased impressions by 19% compared to the 2018 campaign, and received over 500 new followers. 
  • Regulatory staff provided District stakeholders outstanding customer service in the timely issuance of WUPs and ERPs by meeting or exceeding the FDEP 1.b. permit issuance stretch goals (33 days for WUPs and 25 days for ERPs) for all four quarters of 2019.
  • The District completed a large-scale, interactive educational display at the Nature Coast Biological Center in Cedar Key which showcases the connectivity of river and coastal systems, highlights water quality and conservation information, as well as the District mission.
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