Jacksonville, FL – In October 2011, the Regional Community Institute (RCI) and the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) collaborated with the citizens of Northeast Florida on First Coast Vision, a vision for growth and development in the Region for the next 50 years. Part of that vision was improving water conservation, green infrastructure, and the importance of water bodies meeting water quality standards in the Region. For the first time, scientists in Florida and Georgia are collaborating on data regarding the St. Marys River, which forms a boundary between the two states.

In August 2015, NEFRC assigned water quality as the 2017 policy issue to for RCI members to address, after collaboration with the RCI Board of Directors. RCI assigned the topic to its Natural Resources Committee, led by Professor Quinton White of the Marine Science Research Institute of Jacksonville University. The Committee agreed that the efforts should focus on the St. Marys River, should include both Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, and called its initiative “Water Beyond Borders”. The final report can be found here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1mOjxfSVsQgSKfjPX0Q9eG8OSMhID1iZq.

“For the first time, researchers across both states are collaborating and sharing information on water quality in the St. Marys,” stated the RCI president. “This effort allows scientists to better monitor the health of one of our Region’s key water systems.”

The Water Beyond Borders Committee recommended that a mechanism for sharing water quality data should be identified so that datasets could be monitored, coordinated, and communicated across jurisdictions and between researchers in both Florida and Georgia. Smart North Florida’s Integrated Data Exchange was ultimately selected as the most appropriate host for the information. SNF’s Integrated Data Exchange is an open-data exchange aimed at breaking silos, fostering cross-sector collaboration, and connecting stakeholders to innovators and entrepreneurs to help solve local and regional problems. Between 2020 and 2021, the NEFRC collected water quality data for the St. Marys River from a variety of sources and then produced datasets for each state.

The purpose of these datasets is to provide scientists, local university researchers, and environmental organizations with the most up-to-date water quality parameters for the St. Marys River. Each dataset provides an inventory of time-series data recorded at individual monitoring stations, with parameters including salinity, dissolved oxygen, and water temperature. Find the datasets by clicking this link: https://data.smartnorthfloridadata.com/dataset/st-marys-river-water-quality-data-for-florida-georgia.

The Regional Community Institute of Northeast Florida, Inc. is a non-profit organization created by the Northeast Florida Regional Council to consider policy issues. For more information regarding the NEFRC and its work, and the RCI, contact Kate Haigh at khaigh@nefrc.org.

Smart North Florida is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving regional quality of life through collaboration, data coordination, and smart technology. For more information regarding SNF’s work and the Integrated Data Exchange contact Clayton Levins at clevins@smartnorthflorida.com

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