California’s water management system is far from perfect but it has some advantages over Florida for drought management. For example:

Californians can muck things up very well through bad choices and neglect but at least there seem to be some better water management structures.


Florida’s water management system is far from perfect but it has some advantages over California for drought management. For example:

  • Florida has a unified water permitting system and a single water law doctrine for both surface and groundwater.  California’s water law is a clumsy conglomeration of groundwater doctrines, surface water rights, public trust doctrines, etc., etc. That complexity makes drought response even harder than it needs to be.
  • Florida doesn’t pump water hundreds of miles to water users. When distant sources of water runs short in California, the final users can be sent into full crisis mode.
  • There are fewer water control “knobs” in California available to modify water use practices. They lack a system of regional water management districts with phased water shortage orders like Florida.

We can muck things up very well in Florida through bad choices and neglect but at least there seem to be some better water management structures.

Environmental worries?

I don’t have data specifically for Florida but Gallup polling released a March 5-8, 2015 national survey about “environmental threats.” Results included the degree of “worry” about several environmental concerns:


Both self-identified Democrats and Republicans seem to regard these issues as less important than in 2000. Quite a bit less important for Republicans. Florida voters selected last year an entirely Republican Cabinet and a legislature that is 67% Republican. They’re not worried.

50 million square feet of lawns

California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent executive actions on drought include a call to “Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments.” A number like 50 million seems big but how ambitious is that goal really? Would it make sense for Florida?

California and Florida have about the same amount of grass. California is estimated to have between 3300 and 4300 square miles, while Florida grass totals between 3000 and 4500 square miles. Taking the lower estimate for both states and recognizing that “50 million square feet” equals 1.79 square miles, the goal amounts to a lawn reduction of 0.05% in California and .06% in Florida.

50 billion (with a B!) square feet would be a more appropriate goal for both states.


It is a little surprising, at least to me, that the current talk about changing Florida water policy hasn’t included more discussion of flood hazards and floodplain management. After all, Florida has 37% of all flood insurance policies in the United States. Maybe most legislators don’t want to talk about flood hazard prevention and wise floodplain management because that would require also talking about climate change. Rising sea levels and altered precipitation patterns are major flood determinants. If you don’t talk about the possibility of more high-rainfall events, they won’t happen?