Florida’s rivers are in trouble. That’s what Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel found after a yearlong evaluation of some of the state’s biggest and smallest, most urban and remote, cleanest and dirtiest, protected and abused rivers.
Of the 22 rivers studied, from Miami to Pensacola, nearly half are in decline because of pollution from lawns, street runoff, wastewater and agriculture, and because of shrinking flows caused by drought and rising demand for water by cities and industries.
Other rivers in the group, while either stable or improving, are profoundly impaired.
Taking care of rivers is difficult and expensive in a state of nearly 20 million residents and in an era of shrinking government budgets and assaults on environmental regulations. Fixing just two rivers, the Kissimmee and St. Johns, which both originate in Central Florida, has cost $2.5 billion so far. Floridians shell out an additional $1 billion a year to various river-related state agencies.
But the state has a compelling reason to protect its rivers: If Florida’s rivers are not healthy, then neither is its water.
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