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Becoming Good Stewards

Florida’s drinking water supplies are under attack, threatened by population growth, pollution and the demand for green lawns.

A growing number of people are worried that one day these major sources of fresh drinking water, the lifeblood for any population, might not be able to recover.

A live oak branch hangs over Blue Spring

Blue Spring in nearby Orange City is the largest spring in the St. Johns River basin, releasing about 100 million gallons of water per day. Nature photography courtesy of Robert Sitler/Florida Aquatic Gems (www.floridaaquaticgems.com/)

The quality, management and most pressing issues facing West Volusia’s water in particular will be the focus of the Volusia Water Alliance’s Fall Symposium 2017 this Friday, Oct. 27, at DeLand’s Sanborn Center, 815 S. Alabama Ave.

The free conference is open to the public and sponsored by Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience and the city of DeLand. Attendees are encouraged to register online at VolusiaWater.org.

“This is really about public education as consumers of water … finding better ways to use it,” said Clay Henderson, a noted conservationist, environmental lawyer and Stetson professor who heads the Institute. “Fifty percent of our fresh water goes right on our lawns. We don’t need to use (quality) water on our lawns.”

Clay Henderson, Stetson University

Clay Henderson

And then there’s the added problem of area septic tanks leeching contaminants and too many nutrients into the underground sources of drinking water.

The symposium will bring together experts from academia, government and environmental organizations and agencies for several seminars during the day.

“The goal is to talk about water issues in West Volusia, primarily the springs,” said Keith Riger, DeLand’s public services director who helped plan the symposium. “There will be a variety of speakers from various groups” both in and out of government.

The day kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with “Water Our Options?” — a series of short presentations by civic leaders geared toward “citizens learning about what good stewardship means,” Henderson said.

The sun sets over Lake Beresford, casting a pretty orange sky

Lake Beresford connects to the St. Johns River, southwest of DeLand, and is home to the training area for Stetson’s crew teams. Photo/Robert Sitler

 “Water’s Journey: The Hidden Rivers of Florida” is a film that follows divers through the Floridan aquifer, a major source of drinking water that will be shown at 11:30 a.m. Henderson said the film reflects how “all waters are connected from deep in springs.”

The keynote address, centering on the St. Johns River’s role as a critical regional natural resource, will be given by Robert Mattson, an environmental scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District. An optional $11 organic lunch will be offered.

“Don’t Water It Down,” a candid, no-punches-pulled presentation and discussion about water issues that directly affect local people, will take place at 1 p.m. “It’s about not watering down the facts, a good discussion by experts,” Henderson said of the roundtable talk where ideas and potential solutions will be shared. “… Students will be taking notes  to share with policymakers.”

The symposium will conclude at 4:45 p.m. with a craft-beer tasting and tour of DeLand’s Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company. “You’ve got to have really clean water to have a really good beer,” Henderson said.

-Ray Weiss