On the River – Troubled Waters: Connections and Consequences

Production for Troubled Waters: Connections and Consequences started with a cameraman and producer on a jon boat recording pictures and sounds on Blue Cypress Lake, a marshy haven for osprey and dwarf cypress four hours south of Jacksonville. The team followed paddlers, boaters, and community leaders for 13-days along the entire 310-mile length of the St. Johns. The video isn’t a story of that journey. Instead, it captures the admiration, concerns, and frustration heard over and over again in communities along the river about the future of our water. Similar concerns are shared throughout the entire state of Florida. Confidence in the agencies entrusted to care for our water seems to be at an all-time low.

Too valuable to lose:  In 1998, the St. Johns River was federally-designated an American Heritage River – the only river in Florida and one of only 14 rivers in the entire United States to receive this prestigious national recognition. The Indian River Lagoon is North America’s most diverse estuary and provides an annual economic impact of $7.64 billion to the surrounding region. Silver Springs is a National Natural Landmark, Florida’s first tourist attraction, and one of the largest artesian springs in the world. And, the list goes on.

Despite their importance, Florida’s waterways are suffering from significant pollution problems such as fertilizer runoff, poorly treated municipal and industrial wastewater, and failing septic tanks. Combined with the impacts from a rapidly growing population we have a recipe for disaster. Consequently, we are standing at a critical crossroads, as the ecological future of Florida’s waters hangs in the balance. Will we continue with the status quo or choose a more sustainable path forward?

Troubled Waters

What is happening to the St. Johns River is emblematic of the water quality and supply challenges we are facing throughout Florida, highlighting the significant pollution problems that exist and the impending water crisis that we face. As a result, Troubled Waters is a call to action for all of Florida’s rivers, lakes, springs, and aquifers. We have an opportunity to forge a new, more protective and sustainable path. We simply cannot afford to continue to sacrifice our valuable water resources for the politics of the moment and the fortunes of a few.

If there is one thing we learned during the making of this program, it is that politics has invaded the decision-making of our scientists in the state through hiring, firing, budgets, and bullying at every turn. The protection of land from sprawling development has been eliminated, water supply plans have been hijacked, water conservation education has been cut, and environmental enforcement has been determined no longer necessary. At the same time, after 75% of Florida voters overwhelmingly supported more money to buy, maintain and restore valuable conservation lands and protect the natural fabric of the state, the legislature failed to use the money to save and protect our troubled waters.

Troubled Waters: Connections and Consequences is a new documentary produced by Ray Hays and PRC Digital Media and funded by St. Johns Riverkeeper. The running time is 48 minutes and is being shown throughout the state followed by a panel discussion from area leaders. You can view the entire film online, or check out one of the public screenings to hear from panelists about what you can do to protect Florida’s water.


January 13, 6:30pm, Gleason Performing Arts Center, Melbourne
February 15, 6:30pm, Challenger Learning Center IMAX, Tallahassee

More dates and locations to come.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.