/ The Conflict of Coastal Urbanization and Water Management
This is my final draft for my final project for environmental science class, it is in APA format, but I can't figure out how to make it come out that way here (and I could really use some help with APA!). Oh well, can ya'll eyeball it for me, my dog still hasn't learned to read. Thanks for your help, I know it's kinda long (boy do I...):The Conflict of Coastal Urbanization and Water Management:
The Effects of Storm Water Run-off on Estuaries in Tampa Bay, Florida
Though attempts are being made to reduce the impact of human habitation on other species' habitats and water resources, there is still much to consider, first of which is how to allow for the replenishment of surface waterways and aquifers while still providing potable water to more than 4 million people, most of which is used for non-potable activities such as lawn watering, car washing, swimming pools, and even flushing toilets.
Fresh surface waters such as lakes, rivers, and wetlands have been depleted at an unsustainable rate to the point that we are seeing once vibrant rivers running at a trickle or lakes with a shoreline 70 feet from the boat ramps and docks. The only reservoir that serves the Tampa Bay Region, C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir (Young Reservoir), ran dry this year after only four short years in operation.
The Young Reservoir began filling in the rainy season of 2005 to siphon water from the three largest waterways in the area, the Hillsboro River, the Alafia River, and the Tampa Bypass Canal (TBC). It is an above-ground reservoir with a 15 million gallon capacity at a depth of 136.5 feet. It was designed to collect and save water for the Tampa Bay region, and is capable of sustaining the population through periods of extreme drought for up to six months (Tampa Bay Water, 2007). The purpose of this reservoir was sorely tested by a drought that began just months after its first fill, since then the water levels slowly but surely declined to the point where this 15 million gallon pool became a 130 gallon drop in a big bucket. With the river sources and the canal dry, and the aquifer below viable levels, the pumps shut down, and the toughest watering restrictions in history were placed on Tampa Bay's residents. Meanwhile, millions of gallons of treated sewer water and storm water run-off was making its way into the mouth of the bay.
Many offers for studies have been presented over the years, and there is still ongoing debate as well as resistance to diverting storm water run-off to replenish aquifers in out-lying, rural or suburban areas. In 2008, the Mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio, refused to consider a proposal by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) to use the water currently being dumped in the bay to recharge the aquifers along the Hillsborough and Alafia River basin. Mayor Iorio believed, then, that it was right to keep the reclaimed water as an alternate source for Tampa residents. The problem is, there are not enough pipelines to get that water to the prospective consumer and even at $3 for 2000 gallons, it is impractical if not impossible for residents to retrieve it from the treatment plant and transport it back to their homes or businesses (J. Zink, 2008).
When you consider the fact that many of our bay waters are off-limits to shellfish harvesting, and many bay beaches are closed weekly due to high bacteria levels, and the sea life is washing ashore, dead; indeed, with the increasing algae blooms off the coast of Florida (Schrope, 2008) and the decimation of sea grasses and tidal vegetation, it is baffling that any resistance to a sustainable plan for storm water run-off such as that proposed by Swiftmud is an actuality. The argument is ongoing, but reason will surely win the day with enough public support.
There have been many success stories in the pursuit of sustainable water management and habitat restoration in the Tampa Bay region, and the Tampa Bypass Canal (TBC) is one of them. The TBC was originally constructed to stem the flood waters of the Hillsborough River, but major in-stream habitats as well as surrounding habitats were destroyed in the process. What was once a 50 feet wide, 3.5 feet deep, stream with thick vegetation and wetlands became a canal 14 miles long, 500-630 feet wide and 20 feet deep that not only takes on high water from the Hillsborough River, but is also capable of stopping tidal intrusions from storm surge that passes more than 4.7 miles upstream (Powell, Montagna, & Walton, 2005)
Constructed between 1966 to 1982, the TBC turned out to be a prophetic undertaking when growth and urban sprawl is pondered. The ruination of the habitats that formerly resided along the 14 miles where the TBC was built would long ago have been wiped out by human habitation, and the humans would have found themselves underwater. Today, the TBC hosts a rich waterway for wildlife, fish, birds, vegetation, and recreation cohabiting the same area. Unfortunately, what goes in must come out, and the mouth of the canal opens into McKay Bay, a small inlet of Tampa Bay where the salinity levels are not conducive to many aquatic creatures.
The reason that storm water run-off into coastal estuaries must be limited is because it gathers with it every pollutant along its course to the sea. From pesticides to animal feces, all of these harmful additions add to the decline in marine species as well as the vegetation that support the habitat of animals who make their living by the salt water. Many areas, such as McKay Bay have been written off as viable estuarial restoration projects because of the decreased dissolved oxygen that resulted from the increase in nutrients from storm water run-off from the TBC. In fact, scientist from the Aquatic Science Associates involved in a peer review of South Florida Water Management's (Swiftmud) plan to establish minimum flows into McKay Bay were incapable of giving scientific feedback on the point because Swiftmud stated, "In the end, the District's net conclusion is that the TBC flood control system is so highly altered that resource protection will be difficult if not impossible to achieve by water flow management alone [...]." (Powell, Montagna, & Walton, 2005).
Harvesting shellfish such as stone crab, oysters, and clams is strictly forbidden in McKay Bay and upstream areas due to the public health risk, but it is not really a worry because finding a live shellfish in that area is almost impossible; eating the fish you catch is "at your own risk" mainly because fish have a greater ability to come and go. How puzzling is it, then, that the residents of Greater Tampa Bay would rather spend $300 million to desalinate only 25 million gallons per day of water when we are allowing 55-100 million gallons per day of treated or reclaimed fresh water to flow into the Bay?
It is clear that more studies into making storm water into drinkable water need to be and are being done. More water treatment plants along the canals should be considered in the "30 year plan," and the planting of swales along the paths of storm water flows before it reaches the streets and driveways of our populace should be in the "this week" plan. Instead of planting unsustainable, water-hungry trees and plants in 13-foot-wide medians, use the money to plant a rain garden along the roadside so the water has a chance to go into the soil, and can at least be filtered prior to running off into the Bay.
Another way to combat the conflict between the need for fresh water and the lack of time to replenish it would be to adopt rules for new construction to include grey water plumbing systems, and federal, state, and local incentives to modifying existing homes for use of grey water systems. The argument that all the grey water will end up in the ground instead of being treated for reclamation is unsound in that reclaiming the aquifers is the first process to a viable sustainment plan. Surface water replenishment can only benefit by the use of grey water systems as well because the need for it will diminish.
More education needs to be done for the public to really understand the enormity of the problem. It is like going to a trail-riding ranch and hopping on a horse that provides you with hours of entertainment for $30. One might feel that he got his money's worth when he ran it the whole way, but he failed to understand the hours or care it will take to heal its injury and the costs involved in sustaining a living, breathing creature. The man will go again next weekend, and they will trot out a different horse.
Education from the Top Government official on down to the lowliest child needs to take place, media campaigns and signs on garbage cans need to drive the message home, alternative
sources of pest eradication, as well as biological eradication methods, need to be taught on every local nightly news segment, and people should pay a lot more for their water.
According to the City of Tampa, the average per capita use of drinking water is 106 gallons per day. Considering that some are using thousands more per day, while others are doing their part to keep their usage under 100 gallons per day, some even using as little as 29 gallons per day, it is safe to say that the idea of "average" needs some consideration, and the use of "per capita" should be curtailed until it reflects the reality of the disparity in consumption. Let us say that the average person needs only 106 gallons of water a day. If a tax is levied at 10% for usage from 106 gallons to 200 gallons, and 20% tax for usage between 200-300 gallons per day, and so on, the mega-users will soon pay for the cost of larger desalinization plants, grey water plumbing system installation, reclamation projects and disbursement and transport costs as well as all the energy needed to sustain them.
It would be nice to squeal from inadvertently shuffling under a live horseshoe crab on its way to shore for breeding rather than finding them barely alive in the mangroves with the sticky sound of luck running out.
Tampa Bay Water. (2007). C.W. Young Regional Reservoir. Retrieved May 23, 2009 from:
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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (2009). Algal Blooms. Red Tide in Florida.
Retrieved May 30, 2009 from: research.myfwc.com/features/view_article.asp?id=24936