Ironies and oddities of Florida water management

Water management in Florida is seldom straightforward because people find many ways to get around the laws of hydrology and economics. A few examples:

  • The biggest irrigated “crop” in Florida is lawn grass and other ornamental landscapes.
  • Even with immense numbers of natural springs, rivers, lakes, and sandy beaches, Florida has more “water parks” than any other state.
  • Most bottled water in Florida starts as tap water.
  • People will pay more for one brand of bottled water than another.
  • The biggest water using sector accounts for less than 2% of state domestic product.
  • Hay growers in north Florida deposit nutrients into local aquifers in order to feed thousands of recreational horses in south Florida.
  • Billions of dollars are spent for Everglades restoration while doing relatively little to prevent submergence from rising sea levels.
  • Water body “restoration” in Florida involves many gigantic pump stations.
  • “Dispersed water” payments to farmers in south Florida often involve storing water on land that has been artificially drained for agriculture.
  • The director of the Florida Park Service thinks that logging, cattle grazing, and hunting could be a pretty good idea for state parks.
  • Many purchases of conservation “land” in Florida are actually done for water resource reasons.
  • Everybody agrees that water is oh-so-valuable but withdrawals are free.
  • Wastewater treatment plants are highly regulated but millions of septic tanks have little oversight.
  • Municipal drinking water systems are required to test water quality regularly for many possible contaminants but the millions of Floridians on individual wells have infrequent and limited tests of water quality.

Moral(?): The path to effective water management is long and crooked.


Ironies and oddities of Florida water management — 14 Comments

  1. Crooked is exactly the right word both in the “twisty” sense and in the “criminal” sense. We have/had laws that would have protected our long term water security and ecosystem viability. Sadly there is an entire industry devoted to working around the laws we used to have. Current industries/agriculture/development are working hard to make sure there are no rules at all. It is sickening to hear lip service as far back as Governor Chiles and Governor Bush but to see that there are still no rules in place to protect us. As the owner of a polluted rural well, I feel like my neighbor is a terrorist in the true sense because we are being poisoned and they know it. If say the Chinese Government or ISIS or some other nefarious terror group decided to poison me in my home it would make headline news. In the meantime no one in our Government is warning Floridians that they may be drinking toxic water. For those people who eat right, exercise, drink lots of water and try to be healthy, cancer-causing chemicals in their drinking and showering water are defeating the purpose. Oh yea, we also have two VERY polluted springs and a stretch of the polluted Suwannee River in our neighborhood too. It’s literally crazy making to see how hard the Government and media is working to keep us safe from terrorists when we are being slowly poisoned every day of our lives and our water centered way of life is going out the window. Thanks for posting this excellent blog.

    • Eccellent comment,I must confess that like a great percentage of Floridians,despite an educated awareness,I feel defeated and planging in a state of helpless apathy.Disgusting on my part,many thanks for your word of hope,now I need to get on and get in action..

  2. Amen to what Annette Long has written! One question: What is the “biggest water using sector” that accounts for less than 2 percent of state domestic product? Is that agriculture? If so, why not say so outright?

    And yes, someone needs to raise the question: Why are we trying to save the Everglades if it’s all going to be underwater one day anyway? Does it make any sense to put all our efforts there and relatively little effort on preparing Florida to cope with rising sea levels?

  3. The blue text link on the sentence about “less than 2% of state domestic product” will take a person directly to a previous post about the agricultural economy. I have mentioned this important fact several times. Here is another link, for example:

    • Oh, thanks Tom-I was evidently in “slacker mode” and didn’t click on the text!

    • oddity or idiocy?I am a fairly new resident of Florida,aware of the debate going on about ecological reality and human concerns.Personally I know where I stand, having lived in various and different environments I learned to enjoy and respect nature and the natural process.Recently I was cited on a report from concerned neighbours,about the overgrowth of my yard turfgrass..any suggestion to what to tell the court?IS THERE A LAW IN FLORIDA?ANY COMMENT WILL BE APPRECIATED.

  4. And don’t forget the Agriculture Commission and the Governor think it would be an excellent idea for the military to train 262 days per year in the Blackwater State Forest (which already has logging) and Tate’s Hell State Forest. The Air Force is submitting their final environmental impact statement.

  5. Its a travesty how much subsidies the sugar industry receives in South Florida. The latitude given on the draw downs from Lake O. Worse still, excessive rain fall means all the nutrient laden water is then pumped back into the Lake. Lake O is a drinking water source and the WMD allows back pumping. The lock system in the lake churns sickening brown water accented by dead fish and alligators. Mercury and sediment counts excessive. Annette is right in her observations and I fear it will get worse before it has a chance to get better. Seems we have put jobs and the economy (even when the numbers are unsubstantiated) over water protection, conservation and preservation.

  6. I think we should quit subsidizing the sugar industry and, instead, subsidize the growing of longleaf pines in the springs heartland, where that “crop” would do far less harm to our springs than turf grass, row crops, poultry farms and dairies.