Florida water use comparisons

A few factoids from the 2010 USGS Report on national water use help explain relative magnitudes of Florida water use. This state:

  • Withdrew more fresh groundwater than any other state in the East (Table 1)
  • Withdrew 791 gallons per capita per day (combined fresh and saline water) (Table 1)
  • Withdrew more total freshwater for irrigation that any other Eastern state (Table 2A) (Also was #1 in the East for both surface water irrigation (Table 3A) and groundwater irrigation (Table 4A)
  • Relies on groundwater for almost 90% of  public water supply (Table 5).

That seems like a lot of water, enough to put a considerable strain on Florida water resources.

“Polluted Paradise” (1949)

Philip Wylie‘s 1949 article on water pollution in Miami probably made as big an environmental difference as any other piece of Florida journalism. “Polluted Paradise” showed a national audience how much of Miami’s sewage was completely untreated and piped straight to Biscayne Bay. Local and state officials admitted that vast amounts of raw sewage were discharged to the Bay while also claiming that Wylie had committed “an injustice to the State of Florida.”

By 1967, the State Board of Health was noting wastewater improvements and thinking differently about Wylie:

A survey conducted by the State Board of Health in 1949 bore  out Wylie’s charges. Conditions were such that unless steps were taken there would be further threats to public health which would  have an adverse effect upon the economic, aesthetic, recreational  and commercial interests of the metropolitan area.

Two decades is about the usual lag time for wide recognition of water problems.

Water use about the same (still)

Rich Marella, with the USGS, has just released his interesting 10-page report on 2012 Florida water use, updating his much more detailed report on 2010 water use. Total fresh water withdrawals in 2012 were almost identical to 2010 (6,399 mgd vs. 6,382 mgd). We shouldn’t make too much of any apparent trend over such a short period. However, I bet that if 2012 withdrawals happened to be higher than 2010, there would be a lot of quacking about the urgent need to develop new water supplies.

Brave water lawyers against fictional serial killers

In early July, I asked opponents of the EPA “Waters of the U.S.” rule to “Please stop the bombast–it is just a water rule.” That was a response to over-the-top denunciations coming from Attorney General Bondi and Commissioner of Agriculture Putnam. Where does that coarse rhetoric originate, anyway? From places like Florida’s own right-wing, secretly-funded “think tank”: the James Madison Institute.

The director of their “Center for Property Rights” solemnly warns Floridians that the EPA “federal bureaucracy” and their “power grab” will be checking on your “simple home improvement project.” In his previous job, he was spooked about the United Nation’s “Agenda 21” resolution and how it could be “the greatest threat to private property ownership, property rights and liberty today.”

Beyond that, Madison just published an EPA attack piece from the “Pacific Legal Foundation.” PLF tells Floridians to fear “a flood of federal regulations” that “nullifies constitutional limits on federal authority” and “illegally expands federal regulatory power.” The rule “defies comprehension.” The floodplain part of the rule is “odious” and arguments for the rule are both “deceptive” and “disingenuous.” Floridians are warned that the EPA may come after your home gardening practices (p. 3).

Even that level of vitriol is not extreme enough for the PLF. Their Florida attorney recommends that we think of the EPA as Jason Vorhees, a movie serial killer.

Protecting water resources can sometimes can be costly, but we must also recognize that Florida is the “Fishing Capital of the World” and that it is filled with extraordinary water resources. Words like the following make no appearance in the PLF article because they might induce a reader to think about them: Everglades, Okeechobee, fish, fishing, amphibian, bird, manatee, seagrass, ecology, benefit, balance, best management practice, nitrogen, phosphorus, algae, mercury, bacteria, disease, connectivity, dredging, canal, cypress, mangrove, estuary, biology, ecology, aquifer, springs, hydroperiod, rain, or drought.

Pardon me, but I have to go outside to rip up my garden. And replace it with landmines to defend against serial killers from EPA. They might be here at any moment.