The irreplaceable parts in the water management kit are intact

The excellent news, despite recent crippling assaults on Florida water management, is that the underlying structure is intact. It is still one of the best in the country. The key features are common sense ideas but which are absent in most other states:

    • A single water law doctrine for both surface and groundwater. 
    • Public ownership of water resources with an associated water use permit system.
    • Unified management of both water quality and water quantity. 
    • Regional agencies that can look beyond purely local concerns, but which themselves are under state supervision.
    • Ability to tax on a regional and local basis for water management purposes. 
    • Entire state is within the geographic scope of regional water agencies.

This unusual combination of abilities and powers makes it legally possible for all of Florida to use, manage, and sustain water resources. None of it works, of course, without the necessary political will.

Better water use permits

Imagine if water use permitting included questions like  the following:

How close are the water conservation measures in this proposed use to the best existing in Florida? (And why not the best for this proposed new use?)

How much does the water cost the user? (For municipal and all other uses.)

How many jobs per million gallons of water use?

How much revenue generated per million gallons of water use?

How much fertilizer per million gallons of water use? (Together with a binding commitment to maximum application rates.)

Link those questions to minimum permit standards and you would see much better permits. It would also be necessary to dump some existing permit conditions:

Are you really tightly tied into Republican Party politics?

How many King Ranch deer heads per million gallons do you have?

Water moralizing

I try to avoid generic water sermonizing. For one thing, it doesn’t go over well. For another, most of the water texts delivered from the pulpit seem misguided anyway. Too many of them focus on moral purity rather than water effectiveness. An example is declaring that everybody gotta do their part, however small, to reach water heaven. The problem with this sermon is that it treats small and big water problems as if they were equivalent. We know they are not.

If you operated a citrus grove and had an irrigation sprinkler spraying onto a fallow field, you would of course put more efficiency effort into that component rather than other parts of the system. If your neighborhood has a person that irrigates flowers with overhead sprinklers in the middle of the day and another person that irrigates in the early morning with micro-jets, you would focus your educational effort on just one of them. If a golf course used 2 million gallons a day for the fairways and the putt-putt used 2,000 gallons a day for the restrooms, you would not say to both that “we all are in this together.” (Not unless you didn’t understand the difference between 2 million gallons and 2,000 gallons.)

Water management is not a daily test of individual moral character. It is a collective social tool to maximize the benefits of sustaining water resources. Solving water problems may involve action from many parties but, if the problem mostly is created by a few, we will want to focus attention on them.

Changing the climate subject

I was wrong in guessing that Rick Scott would come out of his meeting with climate scientists saying that “of course” the climate has always changed.

Scott said nothing significant during the meeting and left without making any remarks. Next day, journalist Craig Patrick tried very hard to get Scott to say something relevant to the science lesson. Nope, wasn’t gonna happen:

FOX 13 News

Scott says he is interested in “solutions” to climate change but not interested in what causes the climate to change. Will contortions like that allow him to keep the votes of climate change deniers while picking up a few other votes from people who don’t understand the issue at all? Scott thinks so.

The potential benefits(?) of generous water use permits

Florida water use permits frequently allocate more water than permittees withdraw in most years. In some circumstances, that could be a good thing. How?

If the allocated quantity in a permit is generous, the withdrawal limit is seldom approached in practice. Not being withdrawn, the allocated water is available for aquifer recharge, base flow to rivers and lakes, sustaining wetlands, etc. Summed up over a surface watershed or an aquifer unit, the quantities set aside from use by other permittees–but in fact not withdrawn-could be large.

Excessive quantities in individual water use permits are often a big problem, but there also can be benefits.