Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach is attempting to withdraw over 13 million gallons of water a day for a cattle ranch near Silver Springs. That has raised justifiable concern. His business decision about water use is plausible only because Florida charges nothing for the water he would like to use. Cheap groundwater is running out in the region. What if the new ranch had to pay what the water is worth and compete directly with all other uses?
New public water supplies in the region are expensive. They could cost several dollars more per thousand gallons than existing groundwater sources. If Stronach had to pay even one dollar per thousand gallons of water, his annual fee would add up to $4.7 million. We can be sure that the ranch would find ways to use much less water if it had to pay what it was worth to other uses. And the water not used to irrigate grass would leave groundwater potentially available for high-value uses in the region.
It is hard to solve water supply problems when you give the stuff away.