This month all of UF/IFAS’ regional specialized agents (RSA) for water gathered in Gainesville to meet with each other and an assortment of state specialists. Water RSAs are a recent advent in IFAS that many of us water pros are excited to see in action. Unlike a typical extension agent, an RSA is assigned a state region in which to exercise his/her insight and expertise.
|A Gainesville Gathering (courtesy: Michael Dukes)|
In Florida, water quality and quantity are major concerns. Having five RSAs in the mix across the state is an asset. “I see the RSAs as a tremendous opportunity in connecting IFAS resources with water issues that cross political boundaries and water users,” said IFAS water specialist Dr. Kati Migliaccio. “Water issues are not typically one well or one stream, they are watershed size or aquifer size.”
|IFAS water RSAs work within and overlapping the water management districts|
2016 has been a noteworthy year for water quality in South Florida. Fish kills and algal blooms, symptoms of long term management issues, made national headlines during spring and summer. Water experts and policymakers have a significant role to play in the region’s future. Newly minted South District RSA Lisa Krimsky talked to IrriGator about South Florida’s water challenges and the regional agent concept.
|South District Water RSA Lisa Krimsky earlier this year in Miami-Dade|
What are you most excited about working on in this new position?
Since I started this position in July, I’ve been spending my time getting to know the whole South District region and understanding both the broad overarching issues and the unique local problems that impact South Florida’s water resources. I have met with local stakeholders, attended numerous meetings and visited with county Extension offices to learn about the great water programming efforts that Extension agents are currently doing. There is a lot of enthusiasm and support for this position, and I am most excited about continuing to work with and facilitate partnerships with each of these entities so that we can meet the challenges and have a greater impact in our existing efforts.
A recent article mentioned your interest in the Indian River Lagoon, can you talk about what the situation is there and what role you hope to play?
|Fish kill in Indian River Lagoon (courtesy: WMFE)|
The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is a large and complex system that spans the length of 5 counties and recent algal bloom events have led to national attention. The northern part of the lagoon has been experiencing patchy blooms of Pyrodinium algae or “brown tides”. These high concentrations of algae plus summer’s high water temperatures have led to declining levels of dissolved oxygen which have resulted in localized fish kills. The southern part of the lagoon has also been experiencing algal blooms, although the type and cause are different from that in the northern IRL. Blue-green, Mycrocystis algae bloomed in the St. Lucie Estuary earlier this summer. This event is the result from high-nutrient, freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee as well as localized runoff from local watersheds. Immediately, one of the roles I hope to play is to help fill in the gaps in communication between scientists, resource managers and citizenry. I want to assist in understanding the causes, impacts, and current research and monitoring efforts surrounding these blooms which will hopefully lead to support and implementation of nutrient reduction (stormwater and wastewater) and restoration efforts.
|Stuart, FL: algae in full bloom (courtesy: AP)|
A year from now I simply hope to have a good grasp on all the complexities surrounding water resource issues in South Florida! Kidding aside, I think a successful first year for me would be to increase our collaborations with local partners and work together to expand successful localized projects on a larger scale so that they can be applied throughout the greater region rather than stay siloed within county-boundaries.
As a platform focusing on water quality and quantity, IrriGator will be doing our best to follow and feature the work of all the water RSAs in the months/years to come. Stay tuned!