By Ralph Massullo, MD | Citrus County Chronicle

Perhaps the most common desire that weaves through each of us as humans is the desire to make some difference in this life.

All of us want to be special and accomplish

something that will leave a lasting impression on our world.

We often fail to realize that it isn’t necessarily the monumental things in life we attempt that define us, but rather the compilation of all the little things that we do that actually make the biggest differences.

I can think of no better place where we all can start to make those lasting differences than with Florida’s water.

Everyone loves Florida. Whether you were born and raised in the state, moved here for a better career or to retire, or if you are just vacationing, all of us love Florida.

One of the main reasons we love Florida is the water. Florida’s water is central to the amazing environment we enjoy every day. Our rivers, lakes, springs, coastal waters and aquifer pooled together provide for our recreation, commerce, hygiene and our very lives.

Without our water, we would not exist. It is our most precious resource and we need to prioritize protecting and preserving it as pristine as possible for ourselves and the generations that come after us. That is not an easy task given the fact that by 2030 we may have 26 million people living in our state and over 120 million visitors annually.

With our current usage patterns, it’s estimated that we will use 10 billion gallons of water each day or 3.6 trillion gallons per year by 2030. Fortunately, Florida receives roughly fifty inches of rainfall each year. Spread over the entire state that translates to 50.5 trillion gallons annually. While that seems like a large number, keep in mind much of that water evaporates back into the atmosphere and recycles.

If we want our water to last, we all need to work together.

The first thing all of us can do is conserve. Be careful when you use your water sources; your sinks, showers, tubs, hoses, irrigation systems, etc. Don’t run water needlessly. While you may think that it is a small amount, those small amounts add up over the days, weeks, months and years of our lives. Conservation is a critical objective, if we want to save our water.

The next thing we can do is restore. Restoration requires us to clean up our water. All of us contribute to polluting our water by the very nature of our physiology. Humans and all living creatures produce waste and how we process that waste determines the quantity and quality of pollutants that make it into our water. Many of us are on septic systems that, if not properly maintained, allow nitrates into our water that change the eco-structure and promote algae growth.

Our state is investing in replacing these septic systems with sewer systems where there is a more centralized and controlled processing, which, unfortunately, is a very long and expensive process. What each of us can do now is to get our septic systems inspected regularly to assure they are functioning effectively and efficiently. The intervals for those inspections should be based on the age and condition of your system and the amount of usage it receives. Certainly, we should consider requiring an inspection at the time a property is sold to better protect all parties and our environment. This is especially important if you live on or close to any large body of water.

Also, our farms that produce our food and industries that provide for our commerce should follow best practices in dealing with water usage and waste remediation, particularly fertilizer use and stormwater runoff containment and treatment. Here in Citrus County, M&B Dairy has been recognized for the stellar way it uses best practices to protect the environment. Its exemplary operation is a model for many others throughout the state.

The next thing we can to is preserve. This is perhaps the most difficult task of all given our growth projections. The Florida Legislature has allocated over $686 million this year to water projects. Gov. Ron DeSantis recognizes the importance of water in Florida and has made it one of the top priorities for his administration. Senate Bill President Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva have worked together with their respective chambers and the governor to ensure Florida is on track to not only solve many of our current problems, but prevent future ones and provide a path of sustainability going forward.

Citrus County has three of Florida’s 33 first magnitude springs, and there are six others in the counties adjacent to ours. Senate President-elect Wilton Simpson and your state House representative will work hard to ensure we will receive a good portion of the $100 million dollars set aside in the budget for springs restoration and preservation. We are also investing in research to study Red Tide and are considering new and innovative ways to better preserve our water, such as using industrial hemp to extract nutrients and pollutants from the soil and water in areas of runoff and watersheds.

Hemp plants have a unique property and are known as a phytoremediator that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined as having the ability to re-mediate contaminated soil, sludge, sediments, and ground water. It’s important for each of us to stay informed on what our government is doing and to work with our elected officials to help them better represent and serve us.

While all of this is very promising and it’s exciting that we are living in a time of great opportunity and potential, it’s still up to each of us to do our part in saving our waters. We all need to work together to conserve, restore and preserve the very thing that defines Florida and gives us life, our waters.

Former President Ronald Reagan said, “There is no limit to the good you can do, if you don’t care who gets the credit.” All the little things we do and contribute will add up to achieving our goal of making that difference to save our waters. Let’s start today!

Dr. Ralph Massullo is a State Representative in the Florida Legislature representing District 34. He has degrees in Industrial Engineering and Medicine.

Article last accessed here on September 16, 2019.