University of Florida

Why the Suwannee River?

Unregulated and Rural

The Suwannee is ideal for an observatory for both pure scientific reasons as well as practical environmental applications. It is one of the last largely unregulated rivers in the U.S. The basin, currently with good water quality, could represent a relatively unimpacted watershed for comparison with highly impacted and urbanized watersheds.

At-Risk and In Transition

Current land use is fairly low impact but is in transition to more intense urban and agricultural use as the population of the region grows. These changes in land use could impact water quality and quantity within the basin.   Population growth in the state has prompted the recommendation of inter-basin transfers.  As these changes occur, the Observatory would be positioned to document their effect and recommend strategies to minimize undesirable consequences.

Three Distinct Hydrologic Regimes

The observatory will study the transition between three distinct but linked hydrologic regimes:

  • Upper Suwannee: Interacts with the surficial aquifer.  Surface water dominates.
  • Lower Suwannee: Interacts with karst Floridan Aquifer.
  • Deltaic Estuary: Contributed to by the lower Suwannee River along with substantial submarine groundwater discharge.

Existing Monitoring Infrastructure

The Suwannee Basin has extensive existing monitoring infrastructure.  Some discharge data exists from the turn of the 19th century to the present. More recently, the USDA Agricultural Research Service through the Southeast Watershed Research Laboratory (SEWRL) has monitored the Little River watershed in Georgia at the headwaters of the Suwannee River since 1965, and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) has monitored the Suwannee River watershed in Florida since 1972. Other groups (USGS, Suwannee River Partnership, and individual university investigators) have long worked on specific, local geological, hydrological, and biological problems within the watershed.

The observatory will include the entire Suwannee River watershed (~25,000 km2).  The structure of the observatory is still being developed, but primary points of operation will probably be at universities and satellite field facilities within Florida and Georgia.

The Suwannee River is also notable in that it’s the only river with its own song