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News from the National Academies
Date: Oct. 4, 2002
Contacts: Bill Kearney, Media Relations Officer
Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Publication Announcement

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.

Read the full text of Regional Issues in Aquifer Storage and Recovery for Everglades Restoration: A Review of the ASR Regional Study Project Management Plan of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan for free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Acadmey Press Web site or by calling (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[This announcement and the report are available at http://national-academies.org]

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

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

William S. Logan
Study Director


* Member, National Academy of Engineering