The Wanderer

It was around 1950 that the Wanderer appeared in the streets of many Florida towns, crying out a grim vision of the state’s future. Afterward, no one could say exactly what she looked like, but all agreed that her hair resembled Spanish moss. She demanded attention:

O Floridians, beware of drilling wells not for drinking water but to irrigate grass! Do not water your Bahia, St. Augustine, and Centipede with the tears of dying springs!

O Floridians, I see a time when your phosphate ore will be uprooted from the ground and used to grow ornamental grasses and unnecessary Midwestern corn!

O Floridians, you will grow immense quantities of sugarcane in the Everglades but no one will be able to say why that is a good idea!

O Floridians, your politicians will sing hymns about how valuable Florida water resources are but continue to give it away! For free! To all!

O Floridians, you will build one of the nation’s best park systems and put in charge people who think that it will be even better with logging, cattle grazing, and hunting!

O Floridians, woe unto the lowest state if a political party denies the science of climate change and the sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other evils to come! I am talking about you Floridians! Yes, you!

Heed me, O Floridians!

Not so much then but maybe the Wanderer’s message is received better today.

Per capita water

PercapPacificWouldn’t it be nice to have a clear visual representation of the different per capita water use rates in Florida? Maybe akin to the new Pacific Institute “Interactive Map” based on data from the California State Water Resources Control Board?

It would allow quick and accurate comparisons between different utility service areas. This information system would create strong incentives for utilities with higher rates to become more efficient. The public would be better served and better able to influence water policy.

I doubt that that we can count on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to require adequate data collection for this purpose or to produce this informative product. If it were wanted, the detailed per capita work already being performed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District could serve as a foundation for improvement.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. We need a “Gulf of Mexico/Florida Bay/Atlantic Ocean Institute(?)” inspired by the work of the Pacific Institute and other independent organizations.

Florida water treatment

Michael J. McGuire, author of “The Chlorine Revolution,” also maintains a blog, This Day in Water History. I have excerpted below the Florida portion of what he found about water treatment in the August 10, 1916 edition of the Municipal Journal (p. 153):



In his blog post, McGuire notes that many American cities were not disinfecting in 1916, even after “overwhelming evidence that typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases could be stopped by such a practice.” For Florida, only one of the eight cities surveyed acknowledged “sterilization” in water lines. Nowdays, that would be unacceptable for any major water system.