Florida water law, as it exists today, is based largely on the recommendations of the 1971 “Model Water Code” written by University of Florida law professor Frank Maloney and several others. As the Model Water Code recommended for Florida, surface water and groundwater legal doctrines are unified, water management districts are established on a regional basis, and the withdrawal of water is allowed only when it is “reasonable-beneficial” and “in the public interest.” Florida’s water management system has some of the best features in the United States. However, one idea of the Model Water Code has been ignored:
If the state were to exact periodic fees for the use of the water, it is conceivable that such a schedule of charges could be established which could discourage wasteful amounts of use and perhaps even some uses at wasteful locations or for wasteful purposes. There appears to be no doubt that fees may constitutionally be charged by the state in connection with new uses.
Why not charge a small fee for water withdrawals, as the state already does for the extraction of oil, for mining phosphate ore, for the use of submerged lands, etc.? Wouldn’t that make economic sense and give water users a reason to become water efficient?