December 24, 2012


We are here, having a jolly good Florida wintertime. But where are the Everglades ? Of course, they did not move, still there – but how have we progressed on still having the Everglades ? It is in human nature at the end of the year to look back and see how we have done in the past year.
There is a great number of outstanding Everglades issues – some progressed, some have not, stuck on money and politics (turf wars, you know). When something gets done, all parties involved want to claim the credit, claim the “victory”. Why are we so insanely obsessed with the “victory” – rather than just getting things done ? No matter who claims the victory here and there, the Everglades should be the ultimate winner. We so need them – for our wellbeing, for fresh water.
There are so many things to do to preserve and restore our demolished Everglades, so many projects to carry out, so much money to invest -
While some got filled in, a number of canals are getting a facelift.
A new stretch of the Tamiami Bridge being constructed (left)
But the Tamiami Trail bridge is being constructed and that’s good. Only just how long it will actually come to we still don’t know. Hopefully, it will not end up in mid-air.

A whole stretch of the Kissimmee River was returned back to its original meandering resemblance. The surgical, frighteningly straight cut of the canal there was filled – the wound is healing and, for our and wilderness’ benefit, Mother Nature is taking over.
In watersheds of the Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee is where water contamination problems arise from urbanization, cattle farming, agriculture, river and spring pollution, together with aquifer depletion. We hear the noises from the giants in the battlefield – the US-EPA and the FDEP. The major accomplishment is the agreement between those two turf warriors who seem to have grudgingly agreed on a compromise for water quality numerical criteria – both claiming a victory. Who cares – as long as the Clean Water Act can be upheld. Big-gun judges try to make sure of that.

Reinforcement of Hoover Dike
In the middle of Florida peninsula, Lake Okeechobee is sitting still not-so-pretty as for its contamination but with a tightened grip of Hoover Dike safely reinforced. That is crucial as a major element in flood control. Its water releases to the eastern and western sides wreak havoc on the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. So far, the surplus water has nowhere else to go. That much for that greatest ‘reservoir’.

L8 reservoir and others being constructed
Those reservoirs create quite contentious issues as they are needed for storing our seasonally uneven rain water supply and equalizing it into expanded STAs for optimized phosphorus removal.
Mentioning the P-word leads us to the heart of the problem – phosphorus contamination is the focus of so much friction and concerns in Florida ! Cleaning up that and channeling the water flow south into the Everglades still remains a major challenge. Enormous and expensive task.
And who will pay for that ?
The Florida Constitution says that at least for the EAA it should be the ‘polluters’ – but will they ?
Stand by for 2013 and farther into the mists of the future. And read more on the many Everglades problems and rumblings on – thank you for your interest and clicks.
Happy New Year to the Everglades - and to all.

November 15, 2012


Florida Everglades is the most engineered ecosystem, the largest laboratory, in the world.  And nowadays we know that a number of things are seriously wrong with it, endangering the very existence of millions of people inhabiting the Florida peninsula.  But let’s face it, the Everglades can be ‘restored’ as much as time could be reversed. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. We do seem to know the problem and we could only hope, being (slowly) already on our way (e.g. CERP, Water Quality Plan, CEPP), to be able to correct the mistakes of our forefathers who drained a huge portion of the unique and vital Florida Everglades eco-system.
Unfortunately, in their quest for land and livelihood (greed ?) they did not know any better. 
Lake Okeechobee and the EAA south of it
Just let’s get our re-plumbing right ! Do the homework, listen to the relevant science, manage reasonably and cost-effectively. The problem seems to be in the very word used here – ‘reasonably’. Because people can hardly ever agree on just what is, or is not, ‘reasonable’ – under the circumstances. Let's avoid extreme and unrealistic positions, science is here to guide us, use it
By now, we learned that we need to re-establish the flow into and through the Everglades and manage the wild seasonal fluctuations in dwindling Florida fresh-water supply.  The focus must remain on flood control and cleansing the polluted water by both modes combined - prevention and cleaning up. Together with serious and forceful application of Best Management Practices, all that comes through building reservoirs with water-cleansing STAs with a priority of fixing the largest reservoir of them all, Lake Okeechobee and its Hoover Dike.
All these problems always boil down to just who will foot the bill for such undertakings. Amidst the squabbles, it is somehow escaping us that for a dollar invested in this, there are four dollars in future benefits. It is only hoped that all the stakeholders will come to their senses, the administration turf wars and wasteful law-suits will cease and through precious dollar-by-dollar real and meaningful steps we come closer to the correct solution.
Including enforcement of the Florida 'polluters pay’ constitutional amendment. Of course, the ultimate alternative always remains – just the way we flooded in – to evacuate South Florida as the ocean is pouring in.

Will south Floridians have to follow this classical bunch ? It would not be so funny.
("Hillbillies" from the TV comedy series)

November 6, 2012


Maybe the UN election observers should have been called in for the US election on November 6.  It seems that the world leading democracy and superpower that flies to the Moon, Mars and faraway planets is not capable of managing the most important democratic exercise, an election at home. Florida happens to be a shining example. Some voters are disenfranchised and reports of electoral fraud surfaced.  According to the latest election-day report, a “high-tech” voting machine in Philadelphia was found to have been rigged – persistently selecting candidate Romney when Obama was voted. Is this the only electoral machination or what’s next ? What is the matter ? 

The greatest democracy in the world, in debt up to its ears, is becoming paralyzed and gridlocked from Washington (D.C.) to the West, South and North. The whole election exercise has been getting out of hand – it is confusing and confused with electoral campaigns running forever, costing billions of secretive dollars going up in smoke in non-productive advertizing campaigns. The electoral lists are a mess and attempts are even being made to manipulate electoral districts, early voting with a wait for 9 hours ?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 Every trick in the book is being used to confuse and manipulate the voter. Is this supposed to be the signature of “the greatest country in the world ” ? Click and watch a brilliant answer to that latter question -

Following the current great world robbery that is euphemistically called “the greatest recession since the Depression”, one cannot resist being suspicious about everything that is going on – whom to believe, if anyone ? Is the celebrated democracy itself, together with the greedy ‘market driven’ economy, just becoming unworkable ? Time will tell – unless the seas rise faster than we can run.

Of course, that aspect and environmental issues have hardly even been mentioned in the present campaign and presidential debates. Does anyone listen ?
And we are hoping to fix the Everglades in all this mess ? Drill, baby, drill - even in the Everglades ?!

November 2, 2012


(Understanding the others - an ode to engineering ??)

It seems that most outstanding challenges – and breakthroughs - are in between the conventional science disciplines as we know and practice them. As an example - it is not the solid-state physics, electrical engineering or mathematics alone where the computers popped up and surged ahead. Not biology, chemistry or genetics alone where bio-technology is now revealing the secrets of life. It is the pooling and cross-fertilization of the conventional disciplines that enables the interdisciplinary breakthroughs. Do we prepare and educate the new generation to fit in there and contribute ? Well, they seem to do that despite their largely mono-discipline education and training as provided by our more or less fossilized educational system.
Globalized education
North-American universities  are very international.  An unbelievable mix on the campus is comprised of the best brains from around the globe that are brought together by the desire to learn, to contribute and realize their dreams.  This is globalization in the best sense of the word. While this way the university campuses may be a mix, the disciplines there have a hard time to 'cross-fertilize'. Academic departments represent structures very rigidly engraved by history.
For the young -
Interdisciplinary training -
and an engineering plug.
The basis of everything is to learn – and to learn to think – flexibly, analytically and on a higher level. Learn to most effectively learn more and to recognize what is important and what is not. If you manage that – you will be good in anything and everything that you decide to do. Try to see beyond the individual horizons. Apart from specific professional skills, communication skills are extremely important too. Look and think “around the globe” - and outside of the box. While a student, absorb as much as you can and don’t be afraid to combine fields. That’s where the challenges are – engineering and biology, engineering and law, engineering and economy, engineering and business, engineering and genetics, engineering and medicine - - that all is open to engineers – and vice versa.
Note that I emphasize a solid and quantitative profession as the best educational basis. Professionals such as engineers can easily branch out – it is much more difficult the other way around. One does not see many biologists solving differential equations or lawyers understanding (let alone running) hydrological models.
It could easily be noted that I am convinced that engineering just provides the most useful, flexible and quantitative foundation. It is a highly creative profession. And a most wonderful basis for an exciting professional life.

October 31, 2012


How did an engineer get into Florida swamps ?
I am very often asked this curious question – and here is my little rumination on it - with a message.
It happened to me through two quite different pulls – as an old canoe paddler I have always been close to water, and I also think that the most exciting research challenges happen to be interdisciplinary – somewhere in between the conventional disciplines. And so I have always had interests, as an engineer, in different things “bio”. Through that combination gateway I have been pulled into the environmental issues and challenges, into water pollution control. Somehow, spanning over this all, is the power and challenge of mathematical modeling and computer simulation – of any and all “systems”. I like it.

In addition, being perhaps somewhat “thermophillic”, I had a tendency of trying to escape Montreal winter deep-freeze by following the sunshine – to Florida, to the point of some 20 years of seasonal residency there. And one just cannot escape noticing Florida Everglades – it is virtually everywhere and its challenges encompass pretty well all social and science disciplines. What a unique, wonderful and exciting (eco-) system ! One plumbing miracle, the most engineered eco-system, the biggest laboratory in the world.
I founded and edit an independent resource website that focuses on changes in the Everglades that now threaten not only the ecology of the entire Floridian peninsula but also and mainly the freshwater supply for some 8 million inhabitants of South Florida.
Everglades restoration
Further deterioration of this precarious situation can be reversed only by following a sophisticated, science-based, extensive, well conceived and well planned Everglades restoration program. Let’s face it, our forefathers made a grandiose and greed-driven (what would not be greed-driven ?) boo-boo in Florida. It also may be considered expensive now to fix our forefathers’ mistakes. They already cashed their benefits - in agriculture, tourism, urbanization - by populating Florida.
Clean up and re-establish the Southward flow
into and through the Everglades - protect
the population from flooding.
Simple enough ?? 
While already conceptually agreed upon, the financing of the Everglades restoration is still to be ironed out, subject to arguments, legal wrangling and turf wars. This is where politics, activism, judiciary, economic and budgetary aspects come together playing a unique role. While this is a fascinating stakeholder game, it is not engineering. Scientists and engineers already know what to do – just give them a go-ahead and sign the check – without changing your collective opinion every four years. We do it the way we flew us to the Moon. And by the way - one dollar invested yields 4 dollars in profit.
Dither any longer – and we may all just get flooded out.

October 5, 2012


Primeval reflex urges – they are hard to overcome. During its evolution, human species has probably become genetically hard-wired to hunt and fish – for survival.  This, likely since more than a million years ago, when our hunter/gatherer ancestors roamed the wilderness surrounding them.
And nowadays we are thrilled to grab a gun or a fishing rod and head out into the open – why ?  It must be to satisfy our primeval urges. Because we don’t need to fetch for ourselves this way. Our meat comes from our supermarkets around the corner and so does our fish.  Perversely enjoying the ‘catch’ adrenalin, more often we don’t even eat the poor fish that gets hooked -.
Either for its  mercury toxicity or for wildlife protection reasons.  It is definitely somewhat barbaric to go after animals and fish for actually no reason whatsoever. In fact, with our weaponry and so effective hunting tools, the animals and fish hardly even have a chance. And let’s face it, we don’t really need to fish and hunt.  Certainly not for ‘survival’.
The question is, could we suppress those evolutionary instincts ?  Sitting deep inside us - kill-kill-kill - -
Of course that we could – if we wanted to. 
And why not ?  Grab a camera instead of a gun and aim that ‘weapon’ well. It does take skills and - snap !  You have your shot, and you even have your ‘trophy’ ! 
And what about our fishing rods and nets and hooks and boats - and their engines ?  I don’t know, maybe start with discarding the latter ones and just paddle – for sport and recreation – as our kind of fishing is more properly labeled.  Yes, you can be more one with water and nature. Look around, enjoy – more challenging is to note the fish underneath you. You can even catch and eat them for survival on your trip but you don’t really need to – those days are thousands of years past - -
Really. There is more than you need to eat – in your coolbox.

September 18, 2012


 ● A huge STA for removing P
The main problem for Florida Everglades is phosphorus contamination.  Huge tracts of land for constructed STAs are required for its removal. That is a very expensive water treatment indeed – paid for mainly by the taxpayers. While economical P-removal requires a technological breakthrough, some alternative ideas may be worth examining. A little summary can get us started:
- we have P-contaminated waters;
- we need to keep using big water quantities AND phosphorus for agriculture (it is NOT going to go away any time soon);
- that agriculture needs water - and keeps pumping and using perfectly CLEAN water from underground aquifers – only to contaminate it with hard-to-remove phosphorus.
● Water with plenty of P in it – use it.
Obviously, the agriculture needs WATER and P.
Give and distribute it to them already in a MIXTURE - and :
- save ourselves huge costs of removing P from water (to required low levels of 10 ppb for the Everglades);
- preserve the precious clean aquifers;
- recycle the finite phosphorus resource.
In other words - why don't we have agriculture using exclusively P-loaded water instead ?
Of course, that would mean -
- gathering and holding that water;
- pumping that water;
- conveying that water (higher-tech distribution PIPELINES rather than canals ?);
- have somebody (user ?) pay some (?) of the water conveyance costs.
The clincher of such a scheme is that this approach may still be CHEAPER than buying out LAND for, constructing and operating STAs. Some specialized reservoirs would still be needed but definitely no back-pumping of P-polluted water that further spoils LO.
Particularly considering that (and how) the whole regional water scheme will radically change with the disallowing and discontinuation of ocean outfalls - in a not too distant future.
It may also be worth noticing that, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee and its muds have become a veritable repository of phosphorus. 
● Phosphate mining in Morocco
The finite nature of world phosphorus supply (Morocco) leads us to the necessity of exploiting even low-level sources of the element so essential for agriculture.  High-phosphorus muds of Lake Okeechobee really represent a resource.
All these considerations should become another serious ELEMENT  in the water management schemes for Central and South Florida  (among those others like BMPs, RASTAs, LO, etc.).
Naive ? - well, keep it in mind and just see somebody else coming up with it sooner or later.

August 14, 2012


Adena Springs Ranch and the like.
The Ranch wants to take a huge slice (equivalent to 50,000 population) of a precious natural resource – clean fresh water from the underground aquifer. It might return probably back some portion of it  on the surface – seriously contaminated.  In our quest for water, we are heavily taxing our water resources.  The net result of it is that, for a local example, the amount of close by Silver Springs flow has already gone down 50%.  Freshwater in aquifers can be considered a non-renewable resource because it takes decades or hundreds of years (sometimes even longer) to replenish.  This is debatable and debated around Silver Springs by experts from both sides as the permit for water withdrawal is being considered (and contested).
According to the free-market economy, the price of a resource should be based on the supply/demand situation determining the commodity market values.  Correspondingly, that water permit should cost so much and be so restrictive that the Ranch would think more than twice about the feasibility of its venture.
The key question could be:  What do we need more, water – or beef ?
(And, considering the precarious Florida water situation – does that beef have to come from Florida ?)

August 9, 2012


Roaring around pristine nature.
Everybody is impressed by the natural beauty and uniqueness of Florida Everglades. What a priceless piece of pristine nature !  Excuse me, what did you say ? – I did not quite hear you now.
An airboat was just roaring by.  Its billion-horsepower noise at the deafening level – to the point that the tourists have to don earplugs to take a ride through that “pristine” nature of the Everglades. The tourism ads do not tell you about that !
But this certainly must be the way to go and see “nature” – all ads recommend it.  Mother Nature just loves our roaring contraptions. It is for sure that all the birds are waiting for them.  Elks and deers too. They are known to come from a distance to experience the roar.  And alligators ?
Actually, most people must believe that when it is “horse power” it must be natural.
So we put these horse-powered engines on airboats and plow the Everglades waters with them.  Oh, that wonderful nature around – and the wildlife ! Never mind the eardrum-piercing noise, we paid for it.
And where there is not enough water, we hop on the swamp-buggies and rip up the land too.
With a zillion horsepowers it just must be the best way to experience the magic of pristine nature.  And we are dead set on doing it. Some even call it a “sport”. Well, it shakes up the potbellies - -
Sometimes I wish that fuel would cost $50 per gallon.
As little boy-scouts, we may have heard something about “see and not be seen” when entering the majestic outdoors cathedral of Mother Nature. By extension, also “hear and not be heard” – a broken twig is a disturbance - -
I don’t know if our children are aware nowadays what nature is and what it is all about. However, they may catch glimps of it on their smart phones. The roaring monster of an airboat or a swamp-buggy gives them the thrill of power – isn’t that the nature we see all around ?
Now – take a kayak and try to see the watery beauty of the Everglades – you don’t have to go too far, there is enough of it just around the corner. Just make sure that you don’t get run over by an airboat – although you will hear it from 10 miles away. But watch out - they may not hear you.
If you are a landlubber – just walk away on the flat and luscious Everglades land feeling your way with a stick. And keep away from the tracks that a swamp-buggy left there – it may come back to devour you – rather than a panther or an alligator.
See, listen, enjoy - no horse-powers, no earplugs – just you and her, Mother Nature.

August 1, 2012


"Ain't it too small, what do you think, doc ?"
We are undoubtedly the most successful species on this planet when it comes to populating it.  Expanding by leaps and bounds, doubling human numbers every 35 years – or less.  I was used to 3 billion people around me, now our global numbers topped 7 billion – our children better get used to 9-11 billion.  Florida has been doing particularly well – doubling its population every 20 years.
The population growth is a controversial issue, putting it succinctly. Just listen to the Pope’s sort of  “go and multiply” message - and then to environmental scientists considering sustainability - -
Yet, our exploding numbers, causing the shrinking ‘elbow space’ and critical resource scarcities, are undoubtedly the reason for escalating and deadly frictions on this globe.  And the endless human GREED – only gets multiplied by all those billions.
The current 19+ million people hanging onto Florida are the real reason for impossibility of the Everglades restoration too.  We dewatered the ‘swamp’ to gain land and converted it to intensive farming and agriculture uses as well as sprawling cities.  Florida economc machine revved up as our numbers kept growing – look at the census data, ask the developers, the government, just look around. Nowadays, a serious notion to “grow out of our debt” tends to be practiced as a working and ‘workable’ economic tool. Actually, our enlightened economists hardly even have an economy model for the population no-growth scenario. Corporate growth is a sacrosanct manta – and practice.  Grow – grow – grow – is it workable ?
All growth curves level off – and decline, according to the Malthusian hypothesis and historical observations.  Human history knows many instances where civilizations perished as their growth became unsustainable. Running out of resources (food, water, materials) and poisoning themselves with refuse and by-products are the unmistakable reasons. 
Could we see similar pressures in Florida ?
Freshwater shortages, pollution problems, economic dislocations and such – all stemming from the growing population pressures. 
Whether we like it or not, that is at the bottom of it all.

July 23, 2012


Florida population doubling
every 20 years from
1900 (0.5 mil.) to 2000 (16 mil.) 
The contemporary “Everglades restoration” is really a misnomer. The Everglades can be restored as much as the prairies can with hundreds of thousands of buffalo roaming around. The truth is that the Everglades can never be restored – to its original state and behavior. A 100+ years passed by – and Florida population mushroomed. There has to be protection against devastating floods, there has to be agriculture – and/but there has to be a secured freshwater supply. Any ‘restoration’ could only be to a certain point. The question is – just where is that ‘feasible’ and ‘reasonable’ point ?
The lack of knowledge and understanding of the Everglades by our great- and grandfathers resulted in a dangerous damage to its unique function. That is being only very slowly corrected now as reflected in recent judicial decisions and schemes such as the CERP, new Water Quality Plan, CEPP and other efforts. Yes, after a century of benefiting enormously from the Everglades, we have to seriously and responsibly think of paying the piper.
Floridian waters, let alone the greater Everglades, are a deplorable mess, sparking a big controversy between the State (FDEP) and the US Clean Water Act (EPA).
To clean and regulate water that would flow to replenish the WCAs and the Everglades National Park requires building expensive reservoirs and phosphorus-removing STAs. Very sophisticated modeling work is showing us the way. Unfortunately, models do not show us just who will pay for what.
There is a long list of specific tasks to do all around the FL peninsula – as well as to argue about. The different jurisdictions and stakeholders involved make for a good gridlock. The judges involved are trying to cut through this proverbial ‘gordian knot’. There is a snail-paced progress (or glacial slowness as Judge Gold qualified the progress for cleaning the Everglades) with one postponement after another – the latest talks about year 2025.
In the meantime, we are reminded of the "POLLUTERS PAY" amendment, anchored in the FL Constitution dealing with pollution in the Everglades Agricultural Area, to shift water clean-up costs from the TAXPAYER to the POLLUTER.

In the meantime, also, the seas are rising. Could there be a hope for at least a modest and reasonably paced and financed ‘restoration’ ?

July 15, 2012


If any war, the USA should launch a war against turf wars of its own agencies: federal, state, county, city, local, districts - and countless other power-hungry agencies that viciously, underhandedly and treacherously keep fighting each other for more power – and money, of course. Here and there we hear horror stories about abominable mismanagement, waste and inefficiencies resulting from turf wars the agencies are waging on each other – even at the cost of lives of US soldiers who are in real harm’s way on the real battle lines, lately in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not so deadly but almost as vicious are the turf wars of different government agencies responsible for our otherwise peaceful environment. Example ? Take the current prolonged skirmishes between the FDEP and the US-EPA, entered by the NGO snipers and Agri-Industrial lobby grenadiers, with the SFWMD and US-ACE just sitting ducks in the line of those heavy fire exchanges concerning the Numerical Nutrient Criteria for Florida waters.
Democracy is an awesome instrument. However, when the turf wars and lobby muscles take over, it is torn to shreds with bits and pieces of it only serving as wound dressing rags for the adversaries. Reflecting the political scene that we all love to watch – but fret when hit with shrapnels from it in the form of economic supercrises that impoverished 97% of us.
Asked to mediate, the superstrong judicial arm rips into the fray from all directions on behalf of any party. Under the circumstances, it costs us billions and we hardly get anywhere - -
Problems will perhaps be resolved - as the fire is eventually put out by the rising seas sneaking up behind our backs through the middle of the Everglades a hundred or so years from now. But who would care for such a ‘distant’ future ?
Only about 10 million people to evacuate then. Florida will become rather quiet, no turf left to fight for.

July 6, 2012


Picture the “activists” and you see speaches and media blitz, largely based on emotional appeals – with very little of, and largely populist, explanation of simplified problems, little facts with none or very select data. The days of effective emotional appeals are gone - says Nathaniel Reed.
But yes, ACTIVISM does have a role in a democratic system, in our collective decision-making process, in our governance. Activist thrusts are usually easy to understand and they are invariably as laud as possible to highlight their point.
Some point, sometimes even a wrong or so often unrealistic point.
In all this one can easily see how enormous government bureaucracy and turf wars, some of it and more often than not, reflecting influences of special interests often politically very powerful, spams a primitive but loud opposition drive – so called advocacy. Usually centered around all kinds of different NGOs representing (some) “people’s opinion”.
One extreme provokes another - not necessarily well founded extremes that could be respected.
The problem with advocacy often is lack of knowledge – the activists are rarely recruited from scientific backgrounds. They don’t read, let alone understand, scientific literature – yet claim science-based this and that. Unfortunately, it often boils down to parroting a couple of phrases that purport to reflect (some) science.
What is missing in knowledge, the advocacy movement replaces by emotions.
Read more, my friends, educate yourselves – and keenly understand what is behind the term “feasibility”. It means doing not only what is correct but also what is possible, what is practical, and what we can afford to pay for. The problem is that all of these are also slippery terms subject to interpretation. They also rely on trust – can we trust what the “government” is doing, what it is telling us ? And what the “science” is telling us ? Or is it all just manipulated beyond recognition ?
Be “reasonable” and think – but mainly, please, educate yourselves. Remember – read and study, comprehend and conclude with flexibility – and with a keen regard for FEASIBILITY of demands put forward.
Then go - and be active – armed with understanding what the role of periphyton is, for instance.
You can even run an ecological simulation model on your own. Or can you ?

July 3, 2012


click for QUIZ 
Click HERE for a fascinating QUIZ
and see just where you stand on 50 quick questions -

July 2, 2012


Recently, the largest and most informative scientific conference on wetlands concluded in Orlando (9th INTECOL). It was a joint meeting of International Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) and GEER (Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration), the latter being the single most important meeting of scientists working on problems directly related to understanding and restoring the essential functions of Florida Everglades.
This largest wetlands conference in the world was attended by more than 2,000 leading scientists working in the field. This is where most relevant knowledge was being shared, this is where the most contemporary findings were being presented that eventually represent the basis for science-based (technical, political, financial) decision making concerning this essential and unique Florida ecosystem. Ecosystem which directly supports life of more than 7 million people in South Florida whose freshwater supply depends on the health of the Everglades.
A population which can either be deprived of water – or drowned in its floods. The point is that this was the most relevant, the most important meeting of leading minds who bring us the understanding of the behavior and function of our Everglades, the lifeblood of Florida.
Our information lifeline are the media – the TV, the radio, the internet and yes, the press. And can you imagine – there was hardly a peep about this event in the media !
No information shared or passed on, no points raised, no education conveyed, no nothing.
All this despite of a well publicized program of this huge conference, despite of available whole Book of Abstracts of all the scientific presentations, despite the speeches, the posters, the availability of leading brains in one location for a whole week.
It is beyond understanding, beyond any logical explanation -
Not a peep - media, where have you been ? Are you that much afraid of a little science – even when our lives depend on it ?
The score on this – Science 10, Media 0.
And yes, you can study the 9th INTECOL proceedings and specific results shared there - right HERE.

March 30, 2012


So the cat is out of the bag. Only about more than a decade late. The Everglades Foundation – RTI study report. Nutrients in waters, phosphorus, etc.etc. Haven’t we known that intensive agricultural activities, the way they are practiced nowadays, pollute ? Yes, only thanks to the intensive applications of fertilizers can we hope to produce the effective acre-quantities of crops as agriculture does it now.
And this is how it comes that Phosphorus – and Nitrogen, and sulfate, and other nutrients – run off the agri-fields in soaring quantities and find their way into our surface fresh-waters and even estuaries. Throwing natural systems, and particularly the sensitive ones such as the Everglades, completely out of balance – and threatening our fresh water supplies and, indeed, our very livelihood and civilization. The situation is particularly threatening the Florida peninsula and with it more than 8 million people that live on it.
IN and OUT – a Simple Mass Balance
The recently released RTI International study for the Everglades Foundation only confirms what has been suspected, known, all along. Phosphorus and the Everglades ! Now we have the figures, numbers, tables, diagrams – the whole works to document it. The study long overdue that should have been done by the government a long time ago. But – yes, it is a “sensitive issue” – agribusiness is so important – and so powerful (a lobby) particularly in Florida.
Yet, it is all so simple: excessive phosphorus quantities IN, excessive phosphorus quantities OUT – and right into Florida canals, Florida fresh-water, the Everglades, the estuaries - -
A simple mass balance.
Accounting for Phosphorus
All that more surprising is that all that phosphorus has not been really accounted for. And where does it come from ? It is brought onto the land in truck-load quantities by the farmers – to assist growth. And to be washed off by rain – in field run-off.
What needs to be also mentioned is the “time-bomb” of phosphorus accumulated on the land and in deposits of lake bottoms over the years of using fertilizers.
From tedious long-term monitoring, we do know how much phosphorus runs off the land. Overall, and actually even down to the individual farm areas. A somewhat unknown, yet crucial, factor is just how much phosphorus gets assimilated – in the crops, by the land itself. That factor can vary a great deal, locally.
Removing Phosphorus
So, while crucially important, phosphorus on the loose poisons our water bodies, our fresh water all the way ‘down’ to estuaries. While trying hard to remove it (farmers’ BMPs, constructing STAs) spending millions of dollars, why don’t we control it better ? The RTI report also shows that is much cheaper (8 times !) to control nutrients “at the source” (BMPs) rather than trying to remove them (by the STAs) when they already escaped into the environment.
Controlled Substance ?
If it is so important, why don’t we just simply declare phosphorus something like a CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE – and monitor its purchases and field applications. That would certainly be easy to do – every farmer already knows exactly how much fertilizer he/she bought and where was it put, why and when. If we know how much phosphorus went IN and how much flows OUT in the field run-off – we can complete our calculations, do all the accurate environmental modeling and remove the gross uncertainties that plague us now.
Having a better knowledge of phosphorus quantities, we can meaningfully control it – and optimize its uses as well as its effects in the environment. Easy, effective and particularly – economically attractive.
The keyword to remember: CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE.
And handle it correspondingly.