The Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee River MFL works to protect North Florida's world renowned rivers and springs such as the Ichetucknee River (shown above).
LIVE OAK, FLA., Dec. 20, 2019 – Today, the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD, District), along with its partners, released an updated evaluation of the health of the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers and associated priority springs. The evaluation, known as minimum flows and minimum water level (MFL) technical document, represents the best science, using the most accurate data available to determine how much water the natural system needs.
District scientists analyze factors such as weather patterns, pumping withdrawals, manatee refuge, recreation, fish passage, wetlands habitats, and other water resource values to determine the MFL. The MFL is required by state law and assesses the amount of water that is needed in a water body to maintain a healthy ecosystem and way of life.
The MFL re-evaluation shows what nature needs to sustain itself and what can be used for human consumption. The reevaluation utilizes a historical perspective and is based on the median (or middle) flow records of an almost 100-year average. Median river flows and MFL thresholds are outlined in the table below.
|Lower Santa Fe River||Ichetucknee River|
|Fort White Gage||US Hwy 441 Gage||US Hwy 27 Gage|
|Median Historic Flow||1270||587||356|
|Proposed MFL Threshold (Median)||1167||534||346|
Better data and more accurate scientific analyses have allowed the District to more precisely reflect the needs of the river systems,” said Hugh Thomas, executive director for the District. “This information is critical not only to the sustainability of the environment but for people as well.”
The Lower Santa Fe Ichetucknee River MFL is impacted from weather patterns and pumping withdrawals inside and outside of the SRWMD boundaries. These cross-boundary impacts require the MFL to be developed in cooperation with the St. Johns River Water Management District and established in rule by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
Using the MFL information, the districts and FDEP will re-assess the current state of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers to determine the “status.” If current projected median flows are found to be below the MFL, the system is considered to be in “recovery.” If 20-year water use estimates project the flow to be below the MFL, that system is considered to be in “prevention.” Both instances require project implementation, permit requirements, and planning to restore the health of the rivers and springs up to the designated MFL. An updated assessment for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers is anticipated early next year.
The Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers and springs have a current MFL that was adopted in 2015. An assessment of the water levels and MFL at that time, showed both rivers to be in recovery, or having withdrawal impacts that are greater than the water body can withstand. The recovery strategy that was created in 2015 called for a re-evaluation of the rivers and springs within five years, the development of a new groundwater model, projects to recover water, and limited consumptive use permit durations.
If you have questions about:
- How does the reevaluation differ from the 2015 evaluation?
- How does the reevaluation affect permit holders?
- How will the reevaluation impact the natural systems?
Please visit the “Frequently Asked Questions” fact sheet on the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers MFL webpage.
The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, Florida, the District serves 15 surrounding north-central Florida counties. For more information about the District, visit www.MySuwanneeRiver.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, search @SRWMD.