Florida is facing a water supply crisis. Competition from growing population, agriculture and commercial interests are often prioritized over needs of the environment. Because many springs, rivers and lakes are well below their historic healthy flows and level, significant areas of the state are designated as “water resource caution areas.”
The Regional Water Management Districts try to balance often competing goals of water supply, water quality, flood protection and floodplain management, and natural resource systems. In recent years District Governing Boards have expended considerable efforts creating plans and programs. However, these were often made without robust scientific basis and with insufficient emphasis on implementation.
In the past 8 years South Florida Water Management District has seen ad valorem tax revenue slashed by 32 percent. Because of restricted revenues, 28 percent of SFWMD staff has been cut, further hampering the ability to deal with the water supply crisis.
Florida’s leaders need to provide resources to address this crisis. They can start by appointing Governing Board members with a broad diversity in values, background and expertise. The Governor should seek greater input from stakeholders at the state and local level, from the environmental community and regional planning councils. With new leadership on the boards, the Governor and legislators need to depoliticize District budget and policy decisions. The boards should be encouraged to set ad valorem tax rates that meet the needs of resources today and prepare the state for the challenges of the future.
In 1989, a state Water Resource Commission developed a series of recommendations that have not been implemented. One recommendation that should be implemented is to “collect a fee from all users based on water used.” Those funds were proposed to aid in development of alternative water sources, resource protection activities and incentives for water conservation.
You can influence water supply planning by voting on November 6th for Governor, the cabinet and House District 120. Read the candidate’s positions and question them at local events. Make sure they share your priority to implement science-based decisions to properly plan for increasing demands for clean water.