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Water bodies, watersheds and storm water

History of the Lower St. Johns River Basin

The River Accord and the River Agenda
Then-Mayor John Peyton of Jacksonville speaks about funding for river restoration projects during an Accord signing in 2006.

Then-Mayor John Peyton of Jacksonville speaks about funding for river restoration projects during an Accord signing in 2006.

In December 1997, more than 400 local, state and federal government officials and citizen advocates met to focus attention on the critical need to protect and preserve the St. Johns River. This resulted in a five-year plan — the River Agenda — and the creation of the Lower Basin Execu­tive Committee to ensure that the goals outlined at the first River Sum­mit were met.

River Agenda goals were to:

  • Reduce point source (wastewater and industrial discharges) pollution
  • Reduce nonpoint source (or stormwater) pollution
  • Reduce bacteria in the river’s tributaries
  • Restore degraded aquatic habitat
  • Increase water quality compliance and enforcement
  • Increase public awareness of river issues

In the marine (salty) section of the river, wastewater and industrial discharges account for 22 percent of nitrogen (the key pollutant) entering the river. In the freshwater portion of the river, both nitrogen and phosphorus are of concern. In the freshwater portions, point sources account for 6 percent of nitrogen and 22 percent of phosphorus flowing, or “loading,” into the river.

While progress has been made in reducing some pollutants, an optimization study completed in 2008 determined that using advanced nutrient removal treatment technologies for improving wastewater treatment is the most cost-effective solution to reducing the amount of nutrients going into the river.

Beyond improved treatment, redirecting the disposal of wastewater and using the reclaimed water for non-potable (nondrinking) uses, such as irrigation, will improve the river’s ecological health, protect and conserve Florida’s precious water supply and assist in providing for sustainable growth in northeast Florida.

Currently, few areas in the lower basin have the infrastructure in place to support use of reclaimed water. Through cooperative efforts, more than 20 reclaimed water projects are expected to begin or be completed by 2014. These projects are intended to remove nitrogen discharges from the river — helping to improve water quality. At the same time, they will make reclaimed water available for irrigation, which will conserve existing drinking water supplies. When these reclaimed water projects are implemented, it is estimated that they will remove from the river approximately 1.6 million pounds of nitrogen per year and 32 million gallons of wastewater per day — or 10 billion gallons per year by 2025.

Several reclaimed water and wastewater treatment projects under construction or recently completed are part of the district’s participation in the River Accord, a $700 million partnership with the city of Jacksonville, JEA, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other local government partners. The River Accord was signed July 27, 2006.

The River Accord committed to reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged into the river by:

  • Phasing out older technology wastewater treatment plants
  • Improving other wastewater treatment plants and building pipelines necessary to reuse treated wastewater for irrigation of lawns, parks, and golf courses
  • Eliminating failing septic tanks
  • Capturing and treating stormwater before it enters the river

These combined efforts will bring the nutrient loading well below state and federal standards and provide more than 50 million gallons of reuse water over 10 years.


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St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
(800) 725-5922