The Evolution of Florida Water Management

by Mark Farrell,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: WRPMD'99: Preparing for the 21st Century


(No paper) The State of Florida has always been very cautious to protect it's natural resources which is the cornerstone of the State's economy. The availability to vast quantities of both fresh and saltwater has always been the allure of the State for tourism but also must serve as the water supply for the ever increasing permanent population. Florida first started the process of regulating the water supply in 1955 when the Florida Legislature created the Florida Water Resources Study Commission. This ultimately lead to the drafting of A Model Water Code which became the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972. These statutes combined aspects of riparianism with a reasonable use provision to create a set of water regulation statutes which is unique in the United States. Water in Florida is regulated by regional governmental agencies, called water management districts, which are locally funded and governed by an appointed board. This system of regional water management has served to adapt to Florida's regional differences in hydrology, geology and environmental features. Since the inception of the Florida's water law, there have been no significant statutory changes until 1997. The statutory framework allowed the regional governing bodies to create rules which would implement the Statute and consider regional application needs. In the 1990's , Florida began the process to update the Statutes to better reflect new water management information and policies which were not considered in the 1972. As the State declares that some regions are depleted of available fresh water, new issues have arisen such as the rules requiring permit applicants to compete to the use of the freshwater supply. Issues such as the establishment of statewide minimum flows and for surface and groundwater systems, local source first statutes for developing new water supplies, economic considerations for implementation of water supply restriction rules and legal procedures to allow new users to compete with existing users for available water supply sources. To avoid increased concerns over growing water supply shortages and environmental impacts from overdrafting the freshwater system, a great deal of emphasis is now being placed on proper water supply planning and funding to be sure sustainable sources are available as the State moves into the next century.

Subject Headings: Water management | Water supply | Water resources | Water shortage | Water supply systems | Fresh water | Water policy | Riparian water | United States | Florida

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