Google has worked with NASA to make zoomable, time-lapse animations of historic LANDSAT satellite imagery going back to 1984. The “Google Earth Engine” animations show changes around the world, including the Florida landscape. In Florida, most of these changes are directly connected to water resources.
For example, a search centered on Fort Meade, Florida will show decades of movement of phosphate mines southward across the Bone Valley Region. Looking southeast of Sumatra in northwest Florida will display the massive tree plantation and drainage project now being restored in Tate’s Hell State Forest. A search for the Zellwood area allows us to see progress in restoring the north shore of Lake Apopka.
If you are interested, you could find other illuminating animations of how much Florida has changed.
Twenty-two years ago today, Governor Chiles went to federal court and “surrendered” in the Everglades water quality standards lawsuit:
…in a bit of political theater that Everglades hands would recount for years afterwards, Governor Chiles walked into the federal courthouse in Miami and appealed directly to Judge William Hoeveler to end the litigation. “I am ready to stipulate today that water is dirty,” Governor Chiles declared. “I am here and I brought my sword. I want to find out who I can give that sword to and I want to be able to give that sword up and have our troops start the reparation, the clean up . . . . We want to surrender. We want to plead that the water is dirty. We want the water to be clean, and the question is how can we get it the quickest.”
To make a very, very complicated story very, very short, there have been many major milestones of Everglades accomplishment since 1991. Local, regional, state, and national organizations and governments have both battled and cooperated to make progress.
It is time, therefore, to embark on another category of urgently needed Everglades restoration: definitional. We should stop referring to “America’s Everglades” or to calling the Kissimmee watershed and Lake Okeechobee the “Northern Everglades.”
As nearly as I can tell, the made-up term “America’s Everglades” was intended to make it easier for politicians outside Florida to vote for this restoration project. In fact, the “Florida Everglades” term was doing quite well in national and international popularity before that contrivance. The new generic term probably detracts from support for a real entity called the Florida Everglades.
In regard to the “Northern Everglades,” the federal lawsuit preceded the practice of attaching the marketable “Everglades” name to the Kissimmee River Valley. The lawsuit properly called Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge a “remnant of the original northern Everglades.” Marjory Stoneman Douglas was clear in “River of Grass” that “The Everglades begins at Lake Okeechobee.” (Chapter 1, Section II). This is also the definition in more recent books like McCally’s “The Everglades,” Levin’s “Liquid Land,” and Grunwald’s “The Swamp.” The Kissimmee is no more the “northern Everglades” than Silver Springs is the “western St. Johns River.”
So, how much water will Florida be using in a couple of decades? Judged by the historical record of previous forecasts, it will be much less than current projections show.
You could take a look, for example, at the 1994 Lower West Coast Regional Water Supply Plan (large PDF) published by the South Florida Water Management District. They forecast that water demand in 2010 would be 917 million gallons a day (p. IV-2). The 2012 version of this plan reports that actual demand in 2010 was only 630 mgd (p. 29). How much money would have been wasted if supply facilities actually been constructed back then to meet an illusory future demand for water?
What should “Florida-Friendly Landscaping” mean for irrigation and fertilization? Should it mean “efficient” watering and irrigation of landscapes? Or should it mean using smaller amounts of water and fertilizer than regular landscaping? Or should it mean using as little water and fertilizer as possible?
According to the statute, the term means “efficient” irrigation and fertilization. That allows you to use a huge amount of water for a large expanse of “appropriate” plants. The program tells you, however, not to “overwater” the plants (however many). It also is possible to be “Florida-Friendly” while fertilizing an enormous lawn with a broadcast spreader–but only when the fertilizer is “really needed.” There is no quantified requirement that the “Florida-Friendly” landscape use less water or fertilizers than other landscapes.
Another approach might be better. Maybe you don’t irrigate or fertilize your fairly conventional home landscape. You don’t bother to apply pesticides. I think you probably are more “friendly” to the Florida environment than your neighbor with a carefully-tended landscape with an “efficient” irrigation system and fertilizer practices that comply with “Florida-Friendly” guidelines. (And you saved a lot of money and time!)
The people currently in charge at the Legislature are about as bad as the old “Pork Chop Gang” of the 1950s and 1960s. There is, for example, the open division of political pork in the new budget. A text search for “water projects” in the the budget text takes you right to a very long list of porky local projects (p. 232-234), totaling $59,475,000. These are not the best projects, of course, just those favored by some influential senators and representatives in the gang. All the rest of Florida pays for these political projects. That amount of money could be put to much better use.