Geeking out on water and climate

Two interesting and free online courses are starting very soon:

Water in the Western United States.” The course “combines an overview of the science behind water and climate in the Western United States with a survey of the major legal, political, and cultural issues focused on this precious resource.”

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. The course “isn’t just a climate MOOC; it’s a MOOC about how people think about climate change.”

It would be even better if a university decided to arrange a free online course focusing specifically on water in Florida. Not yet, at least to my knowledge.

California, Texas, and Florida

California, the most populous state, has a highly-detailed and structured state water planning process, involving public meetings, task schedules, legislative recommendations, and five-year plan updates.

Texas, the second most populous state, has a highly-detailed and structured state water planning process, involving public meetings, task schedules, legislative recommendations, and five-year plan updates.

Florida, the third most populous state, is different. The so-called Florida Water Plan is only one short policy rule plus a list of existing FDEP programs. No state water planning process, no public meetings, no task schedules, no legislative recommendations, and no schedule for updates.

Cheap water is too expensive

The long list of impossible things includes a substantial water use fee. That’s too bad because cheap water creates all kinds of problems. But, hey, who would have ever thought that a rich guy from Connecticut with a questionable background would move to Florida and plow $70 million into getting elected governor? Elected twice! The dream is alive! Some recent water use fee dreamers:

Preston H. Haskell, To protect Florida’s aquifer, put a price on water: “Pricing of water in a range of 50 cents to $2 per thousand gallons would be reasonable and effective.”

Robert Palmer, Florida Springs Council: “Collect aquifer protection fees for all groundwater and fertilizer uses.”

Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute: “Groundwater use could be greatly reduced by collecting an Aquifer Protection Fee (APF) for all uses.”

 Cynthia Barnett, “Hey, America, It’s Time to Talk about the Price of Water“: “Pennies-per-gallon water makes it rational for homeowners to irrigate lawns to shades of Oz even during catastrophic droughts like the one gripping California.”

Out West, they are considering the idea too:

Matthew E. Kahn, Raise California Water Prices:  “Raise water prices and allow the magic of the market to play out.”

Jay Lund, Peter Moyle, UC Davis, How to discourage water wars: don’t give away water: “Prices could be set by the fair market value of the water made available, by having a regulatory agency fix or negotiate a fee, or by assessing the cost of compensatory environmental actions..” 

And for a historical perspective in Florida, a state use fee proposal goes back at least as far as 1986:

Christopher Howell, Northwest Florida Water Management District, Water Use Fees, an Equitable Allocation Approach: “The primary benefit of a water use fee is that it is based directly on water used, rather than property owned as with ad valorem taxation.”

A water use fee would make a big difference. It is the right tool for the job of effective water management.

The “Secretary’s Three Priorities”

What is FDEP all about? In the hagiography that Herschel Vinyard left behind him, his three “priorities” are called “fundamental goals”:

  • Improve the regulatory process,
  • Increase access to our award-winning state parks,
  • “Get the water right.” (p.1)

The current FDEP homepage, without explanation, rephrases the Big Three:

  • Developing a consistent and effective regulatory process.
  • Ensuring the quality and quantity of our state’s water resources.
  • Increasing the access to our award-winning state parks.

Did the public have any role in picking the original “three priorities”? Is there an explanation for the revisions? Do we know, after four years, what additional changes in the “regulatory process” are being considered? Was there an advisory committee of the general public or of experts? A website to solicit opinion? The circulation of draft priorities and subsequent revision? Any explanation of how these “priorities” influence the current House and Senate water bills?

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope. Shouldn’t every Floridian be allowed to contribute to changes in state government water policy?

Everything is awesome

Environmental innovation: When you leave as Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, agency staff writes a 26-page booklet explaining just how awesome you were. You get to introduce the booklet by affirming “tremendous strides over the previous four years in protecting the environment.

There is lots of proof too: Environmental resource permits are issued in half the time of four years ago. (p. 2) Water use permitting was also “streamlined.” (p. 4)  The booklet even notes “Success Beyond the Secretary’s Three Priorities.” (p. 15) In sum,

As this report shows, progress on all three of the Secretary’s priorities is notable. (p. 15)

The years 2011-2014 have been an era of positive change in every facet of the agency’s operations and mission. (p. 19)

Positive changes everywhere. So many, in fact, that there was no room to mention  “climate change” or “global warming.”