Water district goes astray
Under pressure, motives and character often foot except by the landowner.
become clear. Ask Gary Hart. Ask leaders of the Only Swiftmud among all the water manage-
Southwest Florida Water Management District ment districts in Florida has such a rule. And
(commonly called Swiftmud). Swiftmud itself has never enforced it. A dozen years
Like a Polaroid photo slowly revealing its im- ago, the Legislature considered such a rule and
age, a legislative hearing last week clarified who's rejected it. The rule is a rural land speculator's
behind proposals that would legalize discrimination delight and an urban water user's curse.
against most water users in the Tampa Bay region. In the Senate Natural Resources Committee
The picture shows Swiftmud itself seeking a state last week, the 5-3-1 bill failed on a 4-4 vote. State
law that would abuse the supplier of water for one Sen. Mary Grizzle, R-Belleair, wisely voted against
out of every 12 Florida residents. the measure. But the idea was left pending further
That supplier is the West Coast Regional Water action Monday at 2 p.m. on a motion to reconsider.
Supply Authority, which is composed of the cities of During debate, every single one of the other water
Tampa and St. Petersburg and the counties of management districts in Florida asked to be ex-
Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas. They have band- empted from the bill.
ed together and pooled their water wellfield assets, Everyone but Swiftmud, that is. And therein lies
so that growth may be accommodated in the Tampa the truth. If Swiftmud were acting as responsibly in
Bay region without competition among local gov- its water regulation as other water management
ernments. Members of the authority's governing districts, it, too, would have sought to be exempted
board are elected officials from each of those local from such foolish state legislation. But, no, its
governments. lobbyist acquiesced to the 5-3-1 proposal applying
But the supply authority must obtain permits
"But the supply authority must obtain permitsto Swiftmud. Apparently, this agency is so petty and
from Swiftmud to pump th% water supplies. And turf-conscious that it has resorted to legislative
that agency, whose members are appointed by the pressures to help it fight its own regulatory battles.
governor, has discriminated against urban users
while letting rural and industrial users go virtually State lawmakers will do well to throttle the
"unregulated. For example, the authority has waited 5-3-1 bill now. It makes drinking water dependent
two years now for two of its permits simply to be on land purchases at the very time when more and
renewed. In the meantime, several permits for more urban users (and voters) will rightfully de-
equal or larger amounts of water have been granted ma4d access to a state resource regardless of how
S without delay and without requirements of costly much property they may own.
testing. The 5-3-1 rule is discriminatory on its face and
* Against this backdrop comes legislation to make should be shunted to the farthest pigeonhole of the
S the so-called 5-3-1 rule a state law. The rule legislative cabinet.
Suggests that water pressure may be not be re- And Gov. Bob Martinez should inquire why
duced more than five feet, that the water table may Swiftmud Chairman Michael Zagorac of Clearwater
not be lowered more than three feet and the surface is allowing this agency to spend money lobbying for
I level in a lake or pond not reduced more than one needless and flawed state laws.