Date: Oct. 4, 2002 Contacts: Bill Kearney, Media Relations Officer Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant (202) 334-2138; e-mail <email@example.com>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Report Applauds 'Comprehensive' Everglades Research Plan
A central feature of the complex effort to restore the Florida Everglades is a proposal to drill more than 300 wells that would funnel up to 1.7 billion gallons of water a day into underground aquifers, where the water will be stored and then pumped back to the surface to replenish the ecosystem during dry periods. Aquifer storage and recovery, as the process is known, has been successfully employed on a much smaller scale in Florida since 1983, but the size of the new proposal is unprecedented and has raised several concerns. For example, how much of the surface water stored in aquifers can actually be recovered? And what if fresh surface water mixes with salt water or undergoes other undesirable chemical changes while underground?
To answer these questions, federal and state officials working on the Everglades restoration effort have drafted a comprehensive research plan that "goes a long way to providing the needed information," says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The research plan clearly responds to suggestions offered by scientists in Florida and in a previous report by the Research Council. It also acknowledges the importance of conducting pilot studies on a regional scale in order to better understand the consequences of large-scale aquifer storage and recovery.
The committee that wrote the new report commended the authors of the Everglades research plan for designing studies that will attempt to compile all existing data, map the architecture of the aquifers and underground water flows, measure salinity, and test for the presence of chemicals and pathogens. The additional monitoring proposed in the research plan for the pilot sites is a good first step, the committee said; but more test wells are needed, as is even more extensive monitoring, since the salinity and physical properties of the water being recovered is likely to vary considerably among sites. Everglades researchers also should study the effects of chemicals and pathogens on ecosystem communities and not just on individual organisms, so that the findings can help meet the objectives of the overall Everglades restoration plan.
Some of the funds necessary for more test wells and expanded monitoring could be diverted from coring, which uses drills to pull up cylinders of rock samples. While coring can be useful, the committee said, it is costly and may yield unreliable and nonrepresentative data.
The most important overall improvement that can be made to the research plan at this point would be a greater attention to the principle of adaptive management, the committee said. The adaptive management approach allows natural-resource managers to examine the results from each incremental planning step or experiment, and adapt subsequent decisions accordingly. Because the Everglades studies may show that aquifer storage and recovery on the scale being proposed is not feasible, planners need to consider now what should be done if that is the case.
The committee's work was funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The National Academies' National Research Council is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science policy advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL Division on Earth and Life Studies Water Science and Technology Board and Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
Committee on Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem
Jean M. Bahr (chair) Professor Department of Geology and Geophysics University of Wisconsin Madison
Scott W. Nixon (vice chair) Professor of Oceanography University of Rhode Island Narragansett
John S. Adams Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, and Chair Department of Geography University of Minnesota Minneapolis
Linda K. Blum Research Associate Professor Department of Environmental Sciences University of Virginia Charlottesville
Patrick L. Brezonik Professor of Environmental Engineering, and Director Water Resources Research Center University of Minnesota St. Paul
Frank W. Davis Professor Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and Department of Geography University of California Santa Barbara
Wayne C. Huber Professor Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Oregon State University Corvallis
Stephen R. Humphrey Dean, College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Affiliate Professor of Latin American Studies, Wildlife Ecology, and Zoology University of Florida Gainesville Daniel P. Loucks* Professor Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Cornell University Ithaca, N.Y.
Kenneth W. Potter Professor Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Wisconsin Madison
Larry Robinson Professor, and Director, Environmental Sciences Institute Florida A&M University Tallahassee
Rebecca R. Sharitz Professor of Botany University of Georgia Athens, and Senior Scientist Savannah River Ecology Laboratory Aiken, S.C.
Henry J. Vaux Jr. Professor of Resource Economics University of California, Riverside, and Associate Vice President Agricultural and Natural Resource Programs University of California System Oakland
John Vecchioli Hydrologist U.S. Geological Survey (retired) Odessa, Fla.
Jeffrey R. Walters Bailey Professor of Biology Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg