Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

We’re celebrating Earth Day today and every day

April 22, 2021

Cypress trees by the Bayard shore

The District’s Bayard Conservation Area (Clay County) helps protect the St. Johns River.

Many around the world, including our staff at the St. Johns River Water Management District, are recognizing Earth Day today, the 51st year of the celebration filled with festivals and community service projects.

At the District, we do our part year-round, with our core missions focused on water, a substance that makes up 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. This work includes restoration of natural areas, water quality improvement projects, water supply and water conservation initiatives and projects to reduce the risks of flooding.

Here are a few ways we observe Earth Day every day.

  • District staff proactively work to improve the resilience of our communities by strengthening natural infrastructure to help mitigate wildfires, flooding and the effects of sea-level rise. Examples include:
    • Restoration of historic wetlands to store floodwater in the upper St. Johns River.
    • Assisting local governments with projects to convert septic systems to central sewer systems.
    • Restoring coastal wetlands to recover the natural and economic benefits they provide and offset the effects of sea-level rise.
  • The District’s Office of Information Technology has worked diligently to reduce costs and impacts from powering and cooling the agency’s data center by reducing the number single-use physical servers from 125 in 2014 to 68 today, while expanding usable server space.
  • Our Division of Regulatory Services encourages electronic submittal of Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) and Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) applications through our E-Permit system, achieving a rate of 98 percent electronic submittals for ERPs and 85 percent for CUPs. Most of our other correspondence with the consulting community, landowners and the public is electronic, resulting in an Earth-friendly reduction in paper consumption.
  • Water Supply Planning and Assessment personnel contribute each day as well by:
    • Providing agriculture cost-share funding to assist farmers and growers in conserving water and reduce nutrient loading.
    • Provide technical assistance and encouraging the expanded use of reclaimed water which has resulted in a 166 percent increase in beneficial reuse since 1995.
    • Preparing and setting minimum flows and levels for water bodies to protect their environmental values.
    • And coordinating regional water supply plans to protect resources and ensure sustainable supplies.
  • Our Office of Business and Administrative Services is dedicated to saving paper and converting to digital processes throughout our organization. These efforts have resulted in a savings of $250,000 over five years by eliminating the need to store duplicate paper records off-site, and of course, reduced our impact on the Earth’s resources at the same time.

Each of us can help improve the health of our planet during this observance and every day. Here are some easy ideas from our District staff on you and your family can mark Earth Day 2021:

  • Visit a District conservation area near you.
  • Visit the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park in Marion County where the District helped fund a created wetland ecosystem that improves water quality and increases groundwater supplies by treating and recharging reclaimed water and stormwater. Park visitors can take a stroll on paved trails, view birds and other wildlife, and explore the environmental kiosks installed by the city.
  • Visit a local waterway to enjoy the tranquility while thinking about ways you can help save water in your daily life. Find tips to WaterLess here.
  • Visit the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.
  • Check your home’s sprinkler system for broken heads and ensure all spray patterns are only irrigating vegetation.
  • Make installation of a rain barrel a family project.
  • Use our searchable waterwise plant database to select new plants for your landscape.
  • Plant native vegetation in your yard and water and fertilize less, while attracting butterflies and bees.
  • Retrofit water-using appliances and features with those that save water.
  • Start composting food scraps and keep them out of your septic tank or sewer, while creating rich soil for your garden.

We hope you’re feeling more inspired to be a part of all the activities aimed at taking care of our shared home on this, and every, Earth Day.

See our past stories