The culprits, according to environmentalists, "are a recent drought in north-central Florida and decades of pumping groundwater out of the aquifer to meet the demands of Florida’s population boom, its sprinklers and its agricultural industry," Alvarez writes. "To what degree the overconsumption of groundwater is to blame for the changes is being batted back and forth between environmentalists and the state’s water keepers. But, for the first time, a state with so much rain — the vast majority of it uncaptured — is beginning to seriously fret about water."
Bob Graham, a former Democratic governor and senator who assembled the Florida Conservation Coalition last year to help safeguard the state’s water, said, “We have learned that we can degrade our water supplies to the point that water becomes a limitation on the quality of life in Florida. We don’t think that is necessary. But we think it is possible, if not probable, unless there are strong policies and enforcement at the state and local level for sound water practices.”
Alvarez notes that recent attention on Silver Springs, one of the sites now under scrutiny, is the result of an application for a permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District to use 13 million gallons of water a day, about the same amount used by the city of Ocala. (The original request was for 25 million gallons.) The permit is being sought by Frank Stronach, a Canadian auto parts magnate and horse breeder who is building Adena Springs Ranch, a 25,000-acre cattle operation and slaughterhouse that will produce organic, grass-fed beef. Stronach’s ranch is expected to provide about 150 jobs in the slaughterhouse.