STATE WATER POLICY
Amendments to State Water Policy adopted by the Environmental Regulation
Commission on December 1, 1993, have far-reaching adverse impacts upon the
regulated community and have been legally challenged by the Florida Chamber,
Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Engineering Society, Florida Fruit and Vegetable
Association, Florida Assocation of Community Developers, and others.
Impact Upon Business
State Water Policy in the form of DER and now DEP administrative rule 17-40 has
been in existence since 1980. However, water policy has historically been a
restatement of policy as expressed in various Florida statutes for the intended purpose
of expressing the state's general philosophy and approach to water management.
The challenged amendments consist of a series of very specific policy statements
which have direct regulatory impact upon water management districts and the general
public. This is a sharp departure from past agency expressions of water policy.
For example, the proposed amendments include a very broad definition of the term
"natural system" which is in turn incorporated into numerous statements addressing
the regulation of Florida's water resources. In one particular instance there is a
requirement that water be reserved for natural systems before allocation to the
general public and economic interests.
The proposed amendments to water policy have been challenged for at least four
(1) The policy as stated is in many instances arbitrary and there is no
statutory authority for such policy.
(2) The proposed policy does not reflect a proper balance between
providing for the needs of people as well as the natural environment.
(3) Most of the regulatory impact of the proposed policy is indirect.
The policy requires water management districts to undertake further
rulemaking to implement the policy. The effect of this indirect
approcah to rulemaking is difficult to assess and as a result Florida's
regulated community is generally unaware of the long term impact of
the proposed amendments.
(4) The policy in particular does not address the water resource
development necessary to meet the needs of industry and the general
Furthermore, the 1994 Legislature created the Water Management District Review
Commission and the 1995 House Speaker has created a Select Committee on Water
Policy, both of which are intended to specifically address the question of water policy.
Adoption of extensive amendments to water policy by administrative rule is not
appropriate at this time given the degree of legislative attention expected over the
next two years.
During the 1994 Legislature, business interest sought passage of legislation which
would require legislative ratification of amendments to state water policy adopted
after June 30, 1993. The legislation passed the Florida Senate but was amended by
the Florida House in the closing hours of the 1994 session to simply postpone the
effective date of proposed amendments to water policy until July 1, 1995, in order to
provide the 1995 Legislature the opportunity to reconsider the issue. The
administrative hearing was subsequently deferred until after the 1995 session.
The Florida House also directed the Governor's Task Force on Land and Water
Planning to review the proposed amendments to water policy and to develop
recommendations for consideration by the 1995 Legislature. The Task Force was
unable to reach consensus on the content of water policy, but did make a
recommendation that water policy be adopted by the Secretary of the Department of
Environmental Protection rather than the Environmental Regulation Commission.
Florida Land Council Position
Support legislation to either (i) eliminate the authority of the Department of
Environmental Regulation to adopt state water policy by administrative rule;
or (ii) require legislative ratification of proposed amendments to state water policy.