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Group Title: Bulletin Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Title: Water resource management in Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00008523/00001
 Material Information
Title: Water resource management in Florida
Series Title: Bulletin Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Physical Description: 15 p. : col. ill. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Baldwin, L. B
Carriker, Roy R
Publisher: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1985
Subject: Water resources development -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Water use -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Water -- Law and legislation -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 16
Statement of Responsibility: L.B. Baldwin and R.R. Carriker.
General Note: Cover title.
General Note: "April 1985."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00008523
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA6785
ltuf - AEG9698
oclc - 14635639
alephbibnum - 000872446

Table of Contents
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Full Text

April 1985 Buy lin 206

Water Resource Management

In Florida

L.B. Baldwin and R.R. Carriker


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Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville .-
John T. Woeste, Dean for Extension

C 1 g

Table of Contents


Florida's Water Resource.................................2

Water Use in Florida.....................................5

Water Control Water Management..........................8

Water Use Rights...........................................9

Administrative Structure..................................9

Implementation of Water Resource Management ..............11

Policy.............................................. 12
Water Shortage Management ............................13
Determining User Needs ...............................14

Summary and Comment.......... ............... ..... ......14




L. B. Baldwin and R. R. Carriker*


The population of Florida grew from 3 to 10 million
people from the early '50s to 1980 (Fernald). During the
same period, Florida agriculture expanded and intensified.
Irrigated acreage increased about 450 percent to over 2
million acres (U.S. Bureau of the Census). Much of this
development as well as earlier growth took place in areas
subject to flooding in their natural state, requiring
investments in drainage and in water control for flood
protection. Some communities outgrew the local water
supplies and arranged to satisfy growing water demands by
tapping water resources of slower growing regions. It
became apparent during the 1960s that the facilities, man-
agement philosophy, and legal structure of the early to mid-
1900s were inadequate for effective water resource
management in a rapidly growing economy. In response, the
Florida legislature passed a comprehensive, statewide Water
Resources Act in 1972 (codified as Chapter 373, Florida
Statues), declaring all waters of the state subject to regu-
lation and establishing an administrative structure to carry
out the regulation.

Although it has been amended several times, the Water
Resources Act has not changed substantially since 1972.
Population growth and economic development in the state has
continued; policies have been promulgated; regulatory
programs have been developed; several regional droughts and
one severe, nearly statewide drought have been experienced;
and several interagency relationships have evolved. The
extent of water resource regulation varies over the state,
as do public experiences and attitudes toward regulation of
water use.

The purpose of this publication is to provide an overview
of the Florida experience with administrative water law. It
briefly describes Florida's water resources, examines the

*Associate Professor, Agricultural Engineering, and
Associate Professor, Food and Resource Economics, IFAS,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

administrative framework for statewide management, and
reviews the status and experience of management imple-

Florida's Water Resource

With the exception of portions of the state bordering
Alabama and Georgia, Florida is dependent on rainfall for
fresh water supply. Florida receives an average of 55
inches a year according to U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS).This compares to an average of 30 inches for the
nation as a whole, and only 9 inches per year in Nevada, the
driest state (Geraghty).

Total annual rainfall for Florida can vary considerably
from one part of the state to another, from one season of
the year to another, and from one year to the next. The
highest average annual rainfall occurs in portions of the
northwest "panhandle" of Florida and in Palm Beach and
Broward Counties in southeastern Florida, where rainfall
averages 64 inches per year (Hughes). The Florida Keys are
the region of lowest annual rainfall, averaging 40 inches
per year. The rest of the state averages about 55 inches.

Seasonal variation in rainfall is evident. Typically,
summer is the wettest season in Florida, with 70 percent of
the annual rainfall occurring during the period from May to
October. However, extended wet or dry periods can occur at
any time of the year.

Annual variations in rainfall can be extreme. For
example, rainfall at Pensacola in 1953 was about 90 inches,
but in 1954 it was less than 29 inches (Geraghty). The
1980-81 drought was the result of an accumulated two-year
deficit of about 30 inches over much of the central and
southern regions of the state. During 1982, rainfall over
these same regions exceeded the average.

Such rainfall variations have direct impacts upon surface
water and groundwater supplies. Flow characteristics of
streams, levels of lakes and reservoirs and groundwater
recharge are all functions of the amount and intensity of
rainfall. Lack of rainfall for a few weeks causes depletion
of moisture in Florida's predominantly sandy soils and
necessitates irrigation to protect crops and landscape

Although rainfall is abundant in Florida relative to many
other states, a major portion of it is never available for
managed uses because of evaporation, and transpiration by
the profuse vegetation common to Florida. This combined loss
of water back to the atmosphere is called evapotranspiration
and it amounts to about 40 inches during a normal year from

the land in central Florida. Evaporation from water bodies
ranges from about 46 inches in northern Florida to about 54
inches in the southern portion. The potential for
evapotranspiration depends upon solar energy and atmospheric
conditions such as air temperature, humidity, and wind
speed. Actual evapotranspiration depends upon available
moisture and the amount of vegetative ground cover.

In northwest -Florida, permeable soils and sloping land
readily pass rainfall into the shallow aquifers and
streams. Also, much of the vegetation is dormant in winter,
reducing evapotranspiration during several months. These
conditions result in streamflow amounting to 20 to 30 inches
of runoff in an average year. By contrast the southern
portion of the state is mostly flat and supports year around
vegetative growth. Evapotranspiration is high and runoff
averages from below 5 inches up to 10 inches per year

Surface water supplies in Florida are visible in the form
of numerous lakes and several major rivers. Of Florida's
five largest rivers, four are in the drainage basins of
northern Florida with headwaters in Alabama or Georgia. The
fifth largest, the St. Johns, involves an extensive system
of wetlands and lakes lying along the eastern part of the
peninsula from Indian River County to Jacksonville, where
it flows into the ocean. Southern Florida is dominated by
the Kissimmee Okeechobee Everglades basin which extends
from near Orlando to the southern tip of the state, now in-
volving hundreds of miles of canals and levees for surface
water management utilizing Lake Okeechobee as a reservior.
Many streams in the southern part of the state have been
altered by a system of canals which relieve high water
conditions and deliver water to agriculture and growing
population centers on the lower east coast. Some portions
of the original Everglades function as shallow water
conservation areas. The remaining Everglades at the
southern tip of the peninsula comprise the Everglades
National Park which receives water from this managed system.

Most areas of the state rely on groundwater supplies for
municipal, industrial and agricultural uses. Florida has
several prolific aquifers that yield large quantities of
water to wells, streams and lakes as well as some of the
world's largest springs. The principal source of
groundwater for most of Florida is the Floridan aquifer. It
is the source of municipal water supply for such cities as
Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona
Beach, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. It also yields water to
thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells
throughout the state. The thick layers of porous limestone
which comprise the Floridan aquifer underly all of the
state, although in the southern portion the water it

contains is too highly mineralized for domestic, industrial
or agriculture use. In many parts of the state the Floridan
aquifer underlies several hundred feet of sediment,
including thick beds of relatively impermeable material
which restrict the movement of local rainfall into the
aquifer. Water in the Floridan aquifer is replenished by
rainfall in central and northern Florida, where the aquifer
emerges at the surface or is covered by permeable materials,
or where the confining material is broken through by sink-
holes. In some areas water in the aquifer is confined be-
neath impermeable layers with artesian pressure causing
water to rise above the confining layer, and at some
locations above the ground surface, in a cased well. If
uncontrolled, these flowing wells can waste large quantities
of water.

The unconfined, surficial Biscayne aquifer underlies an
area of about 3,000 square miles in Dade, Broward, and Palm
Beach Counties. Water in the Biscayne aquifer is derived
chiefly from local rainfall and, during dry periods, from
canals ultimately linked to Lake Okeechobee. The Biscayne
is a major source of water supply for the lower east coast

A non-artesian, sand-and-gravel aquifer is the major
source of groundwater in the extreme western part of the
Florida panhandle. Water in this aquifer is derived chiefly
from local rainfall and furnishes most of the groundwater
supplies used in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, and part
of Okaloosa County.

Shallow aquifers are present over much of the state, but
in most areas these are not major sources of groundwater
because a better supply is available from the deeper
aquifers. However, where water requirements are small,
shallow aquifers are often tapped by small-diameter wells.

A more comprehensive discussion of water resources in
presented in: "Florida's Water Resources," IFAS publication
FRE 40, by Roy R. Carriker and A. L. Starr, 1982.

Extensive reliance on groundwater holds important
implications for water management. Florida's situation as a
peninsula between two bodies of salt water creates the
potential for salt water intrusion into the fresh
groundwater supply. Careful attention to well location and
rates of water withdrawal is necessary, especially during
periods of drought, to prevent salt water contamination of
freshwater supplies. Also, the extensive, thick aquifers
which provide storage of water through dry seasons or even
dry years should be managed so that withdrawals of water not

exceed recharge over a long term. This is a challenge with
political as well as technical dimensions that remains to be

Interaction between surface water and groundwater poses
several management issues. Groundwater withdrawals can
adversely affect lake levels and streamflow in some areas.
In other areas, such as over the Biscayne aquifer, surface
water can be managed to recharge the aquifer during dry
seasons if water is available from reservoirs such as Lake
Okeechobee. Pollution of groundwater is of particular
concern where surface water moves readily into groundwater
aquifers--a condition common to most of the state due to
permeable, sandy soils.

Water Use in Florida

Whether water is scarce or abundant depends not only upon
available supplies, but also upon need or demand. The water
management process must deal with the uneven distribution of
water demand over time, over space, and by quality
characteristics. Also, the amount of water used in some
areas of Florida is increasing each year to the extent that
the availability of water is sometimes suggested as a means
of controlling growth.

In examining water use statistics it is important to
distinguish between water "withdrawal" and "consumptive use"
of water. Water consumed is that which is withdrawn from a
freshwater source and is not returned to the same source or
another useable source, thus being unavailable for re-use
except by way of the hydrologic cycle. For water management
purposes, consumptive use may be considered all of the water
withdrawn from an important, allocated source even though a
portion may be returned to another useable body of water.
Examples of consumptive use are: household use where sewage
is discharged to coastal waters, irrigation to meet
evapotranspiration needs of a crop or landscaping, and
industrial processes which evaporate water or incorporate it
in a product. Examples of water withdrawn but not totally
consumed are: municipal water converted to treated sewage
used to recharge aquifers or to increase freshwater stream
flow, irrigation water which is not used by the crop but
remains in the shallow groundwater and surface water system
from which it was withdrawn (common in seepage irrigation in
south Florida), and turbo-electric cooling water which is
returned to its source.

According to estimates compiled by the USGS, withdrawals
of freshwater for all uses averaged 7.3 billion gallons per
day in 1980, about double the withdrawals estimated for 1960
(Leach). Forty-one percent of this total was attributed to
agricultural irrigation, 25.5 percent to thermoelectric


*4r E,,
. I: .1."1...


2443 Al./d.
2443 M. goI./d.

Figure 1-Source, use, and disposition of 7,309 million gallons per day of freshwater and percentage
and amount for eact category of use in Florida, 1980.

power generation, 18.6 percent to public supplies, 10.7
percent to self-supplied industrial users, and 4.2 percent
to rural domestic and livestock uses. Water sources and use
are shown by the USGS drawing, Figure 1.

Although thermoelectric power production requires the
second largest withdrawal of freshwater, it accounts for
only 1.5 percent of the total water consumed in the state

Irrigation accounts for the largest share of consumptive
use of water.* Of the 3 billion gallons per day withdrawn
for irrigation, about half is considered to be consumptive
use, according to USGS calculations. Most of the water
withdrawn for irrigation is accounted for by counties in the
lower two-thirds of peninsular Florida. Surface water is
the major source of irrigation water in Palm Beach and
neighboring counties on the lower east coast. Groundwater
is the principal source of water for irrigation in the
northern two-thirds of peninsular Florida. The amount of
water used to irrigate crops in any given year bears a close
inverse relationship to the amount of rainfall received
during the growing season.

Information on the total freshwater pumped for public
supplies was obtained from 532 county, municipal and private
utility systems serving 7.8 million people (Leach). The
seven most populous counties -- Broward, Dade, Duval,
Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas -- account for
68 percent of total freshwater use for public supplies.
Except for Orange County, all seven counties are located on
Florida's coastline, a fact which requires Florida's water
management decision makers to confront the issues of salt
water intrusion and interjurisdictional water transfers.

Total water withdrawn by industries has decreased in
recent years as a direct result of water conservation and
recycling by industrial plants (Leach). Of the 839 million
gallons per day withdrawn for industrial use, most went for
pulp and paper processing, chemical products, and phosphate
mining. The total has decreased from 1,059 million gallons
per day in 1970.

*For a detailed report of irrigation water use in Florida,
refer to "Irrigation in Florida Agriculture in the 80's,"
IFAS Bulletin 196, by D.S. Harrison, et al, 1983.

Water Control Water Management

Although the pressures of rapid growth brought about
comprehensive water resource management legislation in the
'70s, portions of south Florida had been under some degree
of water control for nearly a century. During the late
1800s and the first half of the 1900s private and public
projects sought to control the surface waters that could
innundate most of the central-southern and lower east coast
regions of the peninsula during extremely wet years. There
were relatively few well defined streams but a large portion
of the area was "wetland." Water control required canals,
levees, pump stations, dams, and other structures that
involved substantial costs for planning, construction, and
operation. It was not until an extensive flood control
project was implemented, during the 1950s and '60s, that
water in south Florida could be viewed more as a resource
than as a recurring threat to agricultural and urban areas.

State law provided for the formation of "drainage
districts" (Chapter 298, Florida Statues, 1913), with
taxation and other powers to construct and operate water
control systems over specified areas, usually not more than
a few thousand acres. Special acts created larger
districts, such as the Everglades Drainage District as early
as 1907, the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control
District in 1949, and the Southwest Florida Water Management
District in 1961. The more recently formed districts
usually provided water storage and conservation and not just
drainage and flood control. Still, the power to regulate
private water management and use was limited to controlling
the connections of private water systems to district owned

By the late 1960s considerable experience had been gained
in the control of water in small districts and on a regional
basis. The intricacies of funding, structural design, and
hydraulics could be managed. Where water conveyance and
storage facilities were publicly owned and controlled, such
as by the districts, some measure of resource management was
available. Over a great portion of the state, however,
natural streams and lakes constitute the surface water
system and owners of lands adjoining these waterways
(riparian owners) could drain to or withdraw water from
these waterways within the poorly defined constraints of
existing water law. All landowners could tap groundwater
supplies within these same constraints. Some water quality
control was available, but through agencies not dealing with
water quantity control.

Water Use Rights

Historically, Florida's water law was based in common law
which, through case law and long established practices,
provided a basis for water use rights. In essence, owners
of land adjoining lakes and streams could withdraw water for
"reasonable" use provided they did not impair reasonable use
by other riparian owners. Similarly, land could be drained
by routing water to lower areas through an improved drainage
system provided the owner of the lower land was not
unreasonably damaged by the altered drainage. Groundwater
rights were tied to land ownership, but again, withdrawals
were subject to the reasonable use doctrine and the rights
of adjacent owners to groundwater (Kiker).

Under common law doctrine, disagreements over water use
rights were resolved in court, usually after damages were
alleged as a result of some modification of water flow or
quality. As long as water supplies were abundant relative
to water demands, there was little need for litigation and
water allocation under common law doctrine was fairly
efficient. When the state's population began expanding
rapidly, in the 1950s, it became apparent that water rights
needed to be defined more clearly and with greater certainty
before large investments were made based on water avail-
ability and existing water users needed protection against
the loss of water supplies due to new uses which exceeded

The Florida Water Resources Act of 1972 (Chapter 373,
Florida Statutes) modified the common law doctrine and
brought all waters of the state under regulation. Other
legislation (Chapter 403, Florida Statues) defined waters of
the state quite broadly, to include all surface and un-
derground waters, whether fresh, brackish, or salt.

Administrative Structure

The 1972 Water Resources Act and subsequent legislation,
and an amendment to the state's constitution to provide for
ad valorem taxation to fund water resource management,
established the administrative elements to manage all waters
of the state. Statewide authority for various environmen-
tally related programs, including management of water
resources, was vested in the Department of Environmental
Regulation (DER). The agency was directed to develop, with
five water management districts created by the Act, a State
Water Use Plan. It was clearly stated in the legislation
that powers to manage water would be delegated "to the
greatest extent practicable" to the water management
districts (Chapter 373.016, Florida Statues). Legislative
intent was to provide for continuity of water management

policy, statewide, with regional implementation taking into
account the variability of water resources over the state.

Five water management districts were formed, encompassing
the entire state. Each covers one or more important water
basins. Two of the districts formed under special acts, The
Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District (1949)
and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (1961),
were continued under the Water Resources Act with some
changes in their boundaries and in their names. The five
districts are:
South Florida Water Management District

Southwest Florida Water Management District

St. Johns River Water Management District

Suwannee River Water Management District

Northwest Florida Water Management District

Each district is controlled by a governing board of nine
members who reside within the district and are appointed by
the governor to serve four year terms. The governing board
may establish basin boards, chaired by a member, of the
governing board, and with other members from the counties
within a sub-basin of the district. The purpose of such
basin boards is to administer the district's water
management responsibilities on a more localized level.
Different basins within a district may have different taxing
rates, depending upon the nature of the district's programs
in each basin.

The districts have four sources of funding: 1)
appropriations through DER from the state's general revenue
fund, 2) ad valorem taxes on lands within the district, 3)
issuance of bonds, and 4) permit application fees. The ad
valorem taxing authority required a constitutional amendment
adopted by statewide voter approval. This issue was
submitted to referendum in 1976, establishing a cap of 1.0
mill in four of the districts and 0.05 mill in the NWFWMD.
The legislature has the authority to limit taxation below
the constitutional cap, and the governing board of each
district establishes a budget within these constraints

The basic tool of water resource regulation is the
permit system. There are two types of permits available to
the districts. One deals with physical modifications that
affect water flow, storage, or quality, such as drainage
systems, wells, impoundments, and waste discharges to waters
of the state. The second type of permit allocates
consumptive use of water. Consumptive use permitting is a

clear assertion that water is a common property resource and
there are no specific private rights to its use, except
through permit from a water management district. For a con-
sumptive use permit to be granted, it must be shown that the
proposed water use is a "reasonable-beneficial" use. The
Water Resources Act defines this as "--the use of water in
such quantities as is necessary for economic and efficient
utilization, for a purpose and in a manner which is both
reasonable and consistent with the public interest--."
Consumptive use permits carry expiration dates and do not
guarantee a specific water supply.

In addition to permitting authority, the districts have
broad powers with respect to maintaining, regulating,
altering, or constructing waterways and appurtenant
facilities. They can acquire any land needed for carrying
out their water management function, through eminant domain
(forced sale through the courts) if necessary. They can
address water quality issues, either through the evaluation
of permit applications for discharges, or through delegation
of specific programs by the DER, such as enforcement of the
Stormwater Rule (Chapters 17-25, Florida Administrative
Code), delegated to SFWMD in 1982.

The drainage districts established under Chapter 298
still exist within the water management districts, as do
soil and water conservation districts and some county water
control departments. Formation of new local, water related
agencies now requires approval of the water management dis-
tricts. The power to levy and spend ad valorem taxes for
water resource management is specifically restricted, by the
statute, to the water management districts.

Implementation of Water Resource Management


There has been some reluctance to use all the regulatory
authority established by the legislature for water resource
management until there was a strongly perceived need for
regulatory programs. Consequently, development of permit
programs was initiated early in the populous southern
section of the state, but not in the northern districts. A
growing awareness, statewide, that the only secure claim to
water use is through a consumptive use permit prompted some
users with large investments in water use, such as
agricultural irrigators, to press their districts to
initiate permitting. The serious drought over most of the
peninsula in 1980-81 caused many users operating without
permits to apply for them, when they realized that their
supply would be terminated if their water use was discovered
during the enforcement of water use restrictions.
Discussion of inter-basin and inter-district transfers of

water also gave impetus to consumptive use permitting to
establish a history and record of reasonable-beneficial use,
thus protecting the resource for local use.

Until 1982, consumptive use permitting was initiated at
the discretion of the water management districts. The 1982
legislature amended the Water Resources Act to require the
governing board of each district to implement a consumptive
use program "covering those areas deemed appropriate by the
governing board" by October 31, 1983. By January 1983, all
districts had consumptive use permit programs in effect.


A statement of water resource policy by the DER was
considered a logical early objective to guide the water
management districts in developing their own policies on
water use and water allocation. A statewide policy was not
developed easily, however. Early efforts were complicated
by interests who doubted the ability of water management
districts to protect water resources, and who advocated a
very definitive state policy. Others wanted the state water
policy to preserve natural water level cycles and virtually
prohibit structural methods of water management. There was
strong feeling among many landowners that they should have
some private rights to water use. Above all, there was a
growing awareness that future development would depend upon
the availability of water; however, the administrative
structure set in place by the legislature to manage water
was, for some time, viewed with uncertainty by many people
over the state.

After several years of effort, the DER developed and
adopted, in July, 1981, Chapter 17-40, Florida
Administrative Code, entitled "Water Policy." This chapter
is to be a part of the State Water Use Plan being developed
progressively through department and district rules and pro-
grams. The policy set forth in Chapter 17-40 includes strong
positions regarding conservation of water and preservation
of "natural water management systems." However, structural
measures are also provided for. Although inter-basin and
inter-district transfers of water are allowed by statute,
the policy sets forth criteria which govern such
transfers. Water quality protection, including existing
standards and rules, are made a part of the State Plan
through the policy statement. Maintenance of wildlife
habitat is a high priority.

One much-discussed issue, concerning the rights to water
on private property, was addressed in the policy as
follows: "---the department and the districts shall
recognize the rights of property owners, as limited by law,
(emphasis added) to make consumptive uses of water from

their land, and the rights of other users, as limited by
law, to make consumptive uses of water, for reasonable
beneficial uses---" (17-40.04(5)). Presumably, any
successful legal challenge to the Water Resources Act
(Chapter 373 Florida Statues) or interpretations of it will
affect policy, through the phrase underlined above. At
present, the phrase appears to limit landowner water rights
to the concept that water is a common property available for
consumptive use only by permit.

-Water Shortage Management-

Extended periods of low rainfall result in rapid
depletion of surface waters and shallow aquifers through
natural evapotranspiration and consumptive use by mankind.
In the populous lower east coast, these conditions have
repeatedly required restrictions in lawn irrigation and
other non-essential domestic uses. During 1980-81, a
cumulative rainfall deficiency of about 30 inches over most
of the peninsular section of the state resulted in many
surface water bodies reaching record low flows and levels.
Water levels in the deep aquifer (Floridan) dropped and
salinity increased in many heavy withdrawal areas. In the
spring and summer of 1981, water use restrictions were
imposed in all or part of the SFWMD, SWFWMD, and SJRWDM.
Some restrictions were voluntary, but in many areas they
were mandatory and reached levels of 25 percent reduction in
some urban communities, and 50 percent in some agricultural

Water management districts have the authority to enforce
their rules and regulations through the courts, however they
do not maintain police units for this purpose. Florida
statutes require law enforcement agencies of local govern-
ments to cooperate with water management districts in en-
forcement of water use restrictions. Local ordinances were
adopted for this purpose. Also, municipal water supply
systems reduced use by reducing line pressure. In general,
there was good cooperation and the restrictions were met.
Some confusion arose as municipalities responded to the
water shortage with different ordinance and enforcement
activity. The water management districts are developing
strategies to better coordinate water management during
future shortages.

During the 1980-81 drought, the sugar and winter
vegetable producing area south of Lake Okeechobee was
threatened with severe water shortage for the 1981-82 fall-
spring growing season. Lake Okeechobee had fallen to an
all-time low of 9.75 feet above sea level in late July,
1981. The desired level for the lake in late summer is 16
feet above sea level. The lake is the source of irrigation
water for the area and is normally about 700 square miles in

surface area. Area growers were included in the water allo-
cation planning by the district (SFWMD) as the fall
vegetable planting and cane harvest season approached. It
was agreed that water from the lake would be supplied as
needed for the fall season, with the understanding that a
wetter-than-normal winter season would have to occur to
provide adequate water for spring plantings. This was a
decision based on economics of agricultural production with
full understanding of local conditions.

Late winter and spring rainfall (1981-82) over most of
Florida exceeded long-term averages. Surface water supplies
and shallow aquifers recovered from the drought and water
use restrictions were lifted.

-Determining User Needs-

All five WMD's have carried on programs to identify and
understand the water resource, water use and water needs,
methods to gain public cooperation, and strategies to deal
with growing water use and water management crises, such as
floods and droughts. Water quality problems and growing
public concern over environmental impacts have led to the
establishment of well staffed environmental-biological units
in some of the districts. The importance of public
information to successful water resource management has been
recognized by the districts.

Agricultural water use is important in all the
districts, and determination of the quantities involved has
been particularly critical for planning and permitting.
Unlike most other uses, agricultural water is not usually
metered. Because irrigation practices vary widely in
Florida and even within a single water management district,
it has been necessary to work with many individual growers
in order to ascertain the water being used by different
irrigation systems with different crops and soils. Several
of the districts have attempted to establish water needs
based on theoretical determination of evapotranspiration.
As data on actual water use accumulated it became evident
that other factors, such as irrigation system efficiency,
influence the quantities of water needed to provide proper
soil-water conditions for crop production. The districts
have acknowledged this, and have increased their
communications with agricultural researchers, the Extension
Service, and growers.

Summary and Comment

Water resource management in Florida has evolved in
response to economic, political, and social changes in the
growing state. Flood control and drainage were the
objectives of most early efforts, followed by better

management to include conservation and-storage of-water for
use during- dry periods. As the population grew--and
interests diversified, water resources were perceived to be
'' important not only for mankind's consumptive uses, but also
S for the maintenance of wildlife, aesthetics, and
preservation of natural ecosystems. Comprehensive water
resource--management, guided by a generally accepted
statewide policy, became necessary and the legislature has
attempted to establish the administrative framework to
provide such management.

Water management by regional districts appears to have
achieved general acceptance by the public. More than 30
years of experience in South Florida and about 20 in the
southwestern part of the state have provided a base of
experience for the three newer districts. Development of
district programs has been generally successful. There is
communication among districts through statewide conferences,
DER, and direct discussions of mutual problems.

Communication between the districts and agricultural
interests are steadily improving. Most irrigators have
large investments in irrigation equipment and in seasonal
plantings, leading them to support water use regulation
provided it will increase their assurance of a continuing
reliable supply of water. Much of early resistance to
increased regulation has been tempered by the observed
impacts of increased water use and periodic droughts on
water supplies.

A major unresolved issue in water resource management in
Florida is the allocation of water to water-short, high-
population centers. To what extent should the resources of
less developed areas be appropriated to support these
growing urban areas? The second important issue is the
allocation of water to preserve natural ecosystems, and this
issue is often entwined with the first. The existence of
these issues is well known, but a generally acceptable
solution is not.

Statewide water resource management under state water
law is in place in Florida and appears to be gaining in both
proficiency and acceptance. The legal and political
jousting which will probably increase as voter-abundant
areas confront land and water-abundant areas over the use
of water will test the present statutes and the agencies
which administer them.


Fernald, E. A. 1981. Atlas of Florida. Florida State
University Foundation, Inc. Tallahassee, FL.

-Florida Statutes and Administrative Code. Chapters as cited
in text. The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL.

,4Geraghty, J. J., et al. 1973. Water Atlas of the United
States. Water Information Center, Inc. Port
Washington, NY.

FHughes, G. H., et al. 1971. Annual Seasonal Rainfall in
Florida. Map Series No. 40, U.S. Geological Survey,
Tallahassee, Florida.

Kiker, C. F. 1977. Water Rights and Allocation. Florida and
Food and Resource Economics Leaflet 17. IFAS, University
of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

*4Leach, S. D. 1982. Estimated Water Use in Florida, 1980.
Map Series No. 103. U.S. Geological Survey,
Tallahassee, Florida.

OU.S. Bureau of the Census. 1982. 1978 Census of
Agriculture. U. S. Department of Commerce.' Washington,

*U.S. Geological Survey. 1981. Hydrologic Almanac of
Tallahassee, FL.

Wershow, J. S. 1976. Legal Implications of Water
Management for Florida's Future. WRC-6, IFAS,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

This publication was promulgated at a cost of $2,080.50, or 48 cents
per copy, to provide information on water management in Florida.

K. R. Tefertlller, director, In cooperation with the United States
Department of Agriculture, publishes this Information to further the
purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and Is
authorized to provide research, educational Information and other
services only to Individuals and Institutions that function without regard to race, color,
sex or national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth
publications) are available free to Florida residents from County Extension Offices.
Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers is available from C. M.
Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida,
Galnesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publication, editors should contact
this address to determine availability.

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