An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Moody’s: Unaddressed climate change will hurt Florida bond ratings

Waiting to address climate change could cost taxpayers in coastal cities — particularly in highly vulnerable Florida — in a way that not even the most progressive resiliency planners have considered.

Leaving the growing risk of rising seas unaddressed is going to hurt municipal and government credit scores, says the bond rating agency Moody’s in a new report. That means that cities or states now ignoring the issue could face higher interest rates when they borrow money down the road. And, according to long-term climate projections, they will need to borrow a lot of it — hundreds of millions, maybe billions — for civil works projects that will be needed to keep sea level rise from inundating streets, homes and businesses in Florida in coming decades.

Guess who is going to pick up that extra cost of those bonds? Taxpayers.

So far, some South Florida counties and cities, which have already invested in or are planning projects to adapt to the threat of rising seas, are making moves to offset what amounts to a hidden cost of climate change. Miami Beach has famously invested nearly half a billion dollars in pumps and road raising, and Miami voters just approved the $400 million Miami Forever bond to address issues like sea level rise.

Help save a billion gallons of water: Skip a week of lawn irrigation

The St. Johns River Water Management District is encouraging homeowners in its 18-county region to “Skip a Week” of lawn and landscape irrigation during the cooler months of December, January and February.

“Skipping a week of irrigation when your yard doesn’t need it keeps lawns healthy and helps to conserve drinking water supplies — if homeowners who irrigate skipped every other week of watering this winter, north and east-central Florida could save more than 1 billion gallons of water,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle.

During the cooler months, weekly irrigation isn’t always needed. In fact, research shows ½ to ¾ inches of water per irrigation zone every 10–14 days is sufficient.

Overwatering makes lawns less able to survive Florida’s inevitable droughts and encourages pests, disease and root rot. Using less water encourages deeper grass and plant roots, which makes them more drought-tolerant and less susceptible to pests and disease.

Skipping a week is as simple as manually turning off your irrigation system.

To make sure your yard stays healthy, turn on your irrigation system if you see signs your grass needs water. Signs include:

  • Grass blades are folded in half;
  • Grass blades are blue-gray; or
  • Grass blades do not spring back;
  • Footprints remain visible on your lawn for several minutes after walking on it.
If you see signs your lawn is wilting and decide to irrigate, the University of Florida recommends an average of ½ to ¾ inches of water per application. Saturating the root zone and then letting the soil dry encourages healthy, deep root growth.

Additional research about efficient irrigation and other landscaping topics can be found at fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/ifaspubs.htm, which is part of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension website.

To learn more about the district’s “Skip a Week” message, visit sjrwmd.com/SkipAWeek.

Edwards, Brandes file bills to prevent wastewater discharges

In order to encourage public and private utilities to upgrade the infrastructure supporting their wastewater treatment and pumping systems, two legislators have filed companion bills to offer incentives and create programs to help utilities gain compliance with today's industry standards.

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, has filed HB 837 and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes — whose city has been plagued with sewage spills in recent years — has filed SB 244 — legislation that arose principally out of Hurricane Irma's aftermath.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, more than 9 million gallons of wastewater were released throughout Florida post-Irma because of loss of power, resulting in 989 separate spills due to loss of power. The spills necessitated "boil water notices" in almost 40 counties.

In recent years, heavy rains have exposed deficiencies in utilities' wastewater pumping capabilities throughout the state of Florida, Edwards points out in a media statement. Due to aging infrastructure that has highlighted the presence of decaying pipes, outdated pumping stations, septic tanks that are susceptible to overflows during flooding, and a lack of generators necessary to keep stations online during a power outage, millions of gallons of wastewater have spilled into waterways and onto city streets throughout the state.

The 2017 hurricane season is finally over. Why was it so bad?

Hurricane season just ended. Looking back on devastating storms like Harvey, Irma, and Maria, you may wonder if climate change played a role. Carl Parker, hurricane specialist with The Weather Channel, says there’s little room for doubt that climate change is making hurricanes more intense. Parker: “Yes, the atmosphere is changing, we are seeing storms that are different from anything we’ve seen in the past, and yes, the warming of the climate system does play a significant role in this.” 'There's little room for doubt that #climate change is making hurricanes more intense.' CLICK TO TWEET He says the main reason is warmer ocean waters. Parker: “It takes a lot of different things to make a hurricane, but all of those things being equal, if there’s more warmth in the oceans then there’s going to be more fuel, more power, for the hurricanes.” As the world warms, the atmosphere can hold more water vapor, so a single storm can produce more rainfall. And, he says, warming may cause changes to the jet stream that can slow weather systems down, so a storm may stay longer in one place, increasing the damage. Parker says it can be hard to believe that something as powerful and unpredictable as a hurricane can be influenced by human activity. But … Parker: “As people have more experience with these things … I think that is going to really change their minds.” Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Learn about crowdsourcing water level data at Dec. 19th webinar

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with the University of North Carolina, Institute of Marine Sciences, has developed a water level reporting application. The application collects and aggregates reports of observed water levels submitted through citizen scientists. These contributions are photographs with locations and a few simple details that will help weather predictors, scientists, and the public to better visualize and understand changing water levels. This application can be used globally to document high water levels at the coast, such as king tide events, but also far inland, such as snow melt or heavy rainfall events.

Various state and federal partners are currently using water level reports and photographs as communication and model validation tools. Explore the web-based application: What’s your water level? Or log a report from your mobile device.​

Date: Tuesday – December 19, 2017
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 PM ET

About the Presenter

Christine Buckel has been a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science since 2001. She is an ecologist and examines geospatial relationships of species and habitats in the marine environment. Most recently she has been examining these relationships and human interactions under future conditions with sea level rise. She has degrees from University of Nebraska (BS) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (MS).

The webinar is being sponsored by the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

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DEP secretary rejects judge's recommendation, denies Everglades oil drilling permit

A state agency chief on Monday issued an order denying a permit for oil drilling in western Broward County, despite an administrative law judge's recommendation that the permit be issued.

Judge Gary Early in October said evidence from a hearing in May showed the risk to the Everglades and regional water supplies from oil drilling was insignificant. He recommended the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reverse itself and issue a permit to the Kanter family for an exploratory well west of Miramar.

But DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein wrote Monday that his department had not issued a permit for oil and gas exploration in the Everglades since 1967. And he noted the Legislature, in adopting the Everglades Forever Act in 1991, designated the drilling site as being within the boundaries of Everglades restoration.

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is committed to protecting Florida’s one-of-a-kind natural resources, including the environmentally sensitive Everglades, and administering Florida’s environmental laws," DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said. "After careful review and consideration, DEP today executed a final order denying Kanter Real Estate’s application for a drilling permit in the Everglades."

New funding promotes septic tank replacement for homes

MAITLAND — Knowing that septic tanks have been identified as one of the reasons for declining water quality in Florida’s springsheds, the St. Johns River Water Management District is working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and local governments to fund their removal.

The new funding targets the removal of septic tanks in the Volusia Blue, Wekiwa and Silver springsheds, replacing them with individual distributed wastewater treatment systems (IDWTS) in areas where sewer line extensions may not exist or be financially feasible. The IDWTS is an inground, stand-alone residential wastewater treatment system. The system connects to the existing wastewater lines and drainfield. Its performance is monitored remotely by the local government or utility.

DEP provided funding of $1 million to match a contribution of $500,000 from the district and $500,000 from local governments or utilities. With this funding, it’s expected that approximately 200 existing septic tanks from single family residences will be replaced, with an estimated reduction in nitrogen loading to the springs of about 10 to 23 pounds per year per tank, depending on location and soil type.

A pilot project using the technology was installed at the district’s Lake Apopka Field Station in Lake County in July 2017. Samples collected before and after installation indicated total nitrogen removal efficiency of 86 percent one week after installation, and up to 98 percent removal at the end of the 8-week sampling period.

EPA, Army propose to delay WOTUS implementation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) are proposing to amend the effective date of the 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States.” The agencies are proposing that the 2015 rule would not go into effect until two years after today’s action is finalized and published in the Federal Register. This amendment would give the agencies the time needed to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States.”

“Today’s proposal shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and businesses,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘waters of the United States.’”

The 2015 rule, which redefined the scope of where the Clean Water Act applies, had an effective date of August 28, 2015. Implementation of the 2015 rule is currently on hold as a result of the Sixth Circuit’s nationwide stay of the rule, but that stay may be affected by a pending Supreme Court case. The 2015 rule is also stayed in 13 states due to a North Dakota district court ruling. EPA and the Army are taking this action to provide certainty and consistency to the regulated community.

"The Army, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, propose this rule with EPA to help continue to provide clarity and predictability to the regulated public during the rule making process. We are committed to implementing the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparently as possible for the regulated public," said Mr. Ryan Fisher, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works).

This action follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution.

The agencies’ proposal is separate from the two-step process the agencies propose to take to reconsider the 2015 rule. The comment period for the Step 1 rule closed in September and the agencies are currently working to review the comments received from the public. The agencies are also in the process of holding listening sessions with stakeholders as we work to develop a proposed Step 2 rule that would revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”

The agencies will be collecting public comment on this proposal for 21 days after publication in the Federal Register and plan to move quickly to take final action in early 2018.

(Source: EPA)