A Chinese proverb observes, “We know the worth of water when the well runs dry.” But when the well is dry, it’s too late. Faucets cannot quench thirst. Sprinkler heads cannot irrigate crops. The wheels of commerce grind to a halt.
Fortunately, Florida is not in a water crisis. Unlike our brethren in California, Floridians do not face seemingly endless droughts and draconian water use restrictions. That does not mean we lack our fair share of water challenges.
For instance, in Central Florida, geologists believe the aquifer is unable to sustain the additional pumping of affordable fresh drinking water, so more costly alternatives must be found. In other areas, citizens face increased sewer bills to fund wastewater treatment upgrades necessary to protect and restore springs and other sensitive water bodies.
Meanwhile, demands on our water resources are projected to escalate. Florida’s revitalized business environment, vibrant agricultural base, and world class tourism industry continue to attract growth. The Florida Chamber Foundation predicts that our state will grow by an additional six million permanent residents over the next 20 years. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Maryland packing its bags and moving to the Sunshine State.
Thankfully, Florida is taking steps now to help ensure that water supply and water quality protection infrastructure is in place to meet the growing demands of all sectors. Comprehensive water legislation under consideration by the Florida Legislature will refashion the state’s longstanding, regionally managed water supply planning process into a more Florida will closely track expenditures and funding needs to develop alternative water supplies, phase out improperly sited septic tanks, and conserve water resources. The legislation also modernizes water management programs for Florida springs, the Northern Everglades, and other marquee waters.
These policy advancements build upon Florida’s legacy of leading the nation in water resource management. Florida has science-based regulatory programs for protecting and restoring water flow and water quality. Numerous rivers and lakes are subject to minimum flow and level requirements, which ensure that water use activities do not reduce water levels in a way that harms the environment or public recreation. In 2013, Florida established the nation’s most sophisticated, science-based nutrient water quality standards program, which will help prevent algae blooms and other biological harms associated with nutrient over-enrichment. Farmers implement state-adopted best management practices that facilitate efficient water and fertilizer use.
Effective water policy should keep the wells flowing, the rivers clean, and the economy humming. The state of Florida is positioned to hit that mark today and well into the future.
By DAVID W. CHILDS, Hopping Green & Sams, P.A.