Historic note
 Front Cover
 Title Page

Group Title: Circular - University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences ; 412
Title: Summary guide to Florida's water rights
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00067228/00001
 Material Information
Title: Summary guide to Florida's water rights
Series Title: Circular
Physical Description: 24 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wadley, James Bryce
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Publisher: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1976?
Subject: Water rights -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Water -- Law and legislation -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Riparian rights -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
General Note: "James B. Wadley"--P. 1.
General Note: "6-2.5M-76"--P. 4 of cover.
Funding: Circular (Florida Cooperative Extension Service) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00067228
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 19366775

Table of Contents
    Historic note
        Unnumbered ( 1 )
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
        Unnumbered ( 4 )
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
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        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
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Full Text


The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida


G-uicle to

Florida's "WTater R1iglx



I, I

Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of

Circular 412






This document is not a substitute for competent legal advice if you

encounter problems involving water rights. Its purpose is to inform

farmers and other land owners about the general characteristics of

Florida's water law. It presents in summary form a description of the

legal structure involved in the acquisition and preservation of water

rights and of the substantive content of those rights.


James B. Wadley1


A. Who "owns" water in Florida?

The ancient Romans placed water in the category of things that no

one could own, things that all could share. Since Roman times, society

has recognized the need to protect certain categories of users of water,

even at the risk of making it unavailable to the community as a whole.

This has been done in many ways. The system adopted in Florida gives

protected users only a right to use water. They are not owners of

water even though it may flow under or through their land. Use rights

are recognized and protected by law; they are created by law. As such,

they may be changed from time to time, if the modifications are


B. What is the nature of this use right?

In Florida until quite recently the right to use water and the

protection afforded users depended upon whether the water was on the

surface or underground and upon the use to be made of the water. For

surface water, the right to use water was recognized and protected so

long as you were a "riparian" owner (that is, owned land immediately

bordering on the body of water), were going to use the water on riparian

land (again, land bordering on the water), were going to make a

IDirector, Center for Land Use Law, College of Law, University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida. James B. Barnes, Donald Wilson, Thomas Farkashand

George Russ, law students, helped with the research required to write

this report. This work was done under a cooperative arrangement with

the Center for Rural Development, IFAS.

2 -
"reasonable" use of the water, and did not unreasonably interfere with

other riparian owners to the same water. For ground water, a right was

recognized and protected only so long as the use to be made of the water

was reasonable and beneficial with respect to the use of the land and so

long as no unreasonable interference with neighboring users was caused.

In neither case were Florida water users given an unlimited right to

extract, divert or appropriate surface water for their own use.

In 1972 the State adopted the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972

which redefined the protected categories of users and the nature of the

uses permitted as a part of the exercise of one's right. Under the

provision of this act, a permit must be secured for diversion, withdrawal,

impoundment or consumptive use of water. To secure a permit, you must

establish that the proposed use:

1. is a reasonable-beneficial use

2. will not interfere with any presently existing legal

use of water

3. is consistent with the public interest.

You do not need a permit if the only use is individual domestic consumption.

C. Are any rights unaffected by the recent statute?

Nonconsumptive uses of water under the common law were those that

neither reduced the quantity nor diminished the quality of the water used.

Most nonconsumptive uses are unaffected by the new statute. The extent

of any right to make nonconsumptive uses of water (as well as consumptive

uses) has depended on whether the body of water was navigable or

nonnavigable whether you owned land on or under the water, and whether

you were exercising rights claimed as a member of the public generally

or were asserting private rights. To a limited extent, as least with


respect to nonconsumptive uses, the ownership requirement still prevails.

These rights carried over from the common law, as well as those

created and modified by the recent legislation will be discussed in

greater detail in the sections that follow. They include such rights

as passage, access, boating, wharfing, fishing and view.

4 -

A. What is a Riparian right?

Technically, riparian rights exist only with respect to watercourses

rather than all bodies of water. Traditionally, they are associated with

surface waters rather than ground waters. However, the term has been

used very loosely in our system, and such loose use has resulted in much

confusion. From this point on, we will use the term only to describe

rights relating to "navigable" waterbodies. Rights in nonnavigable

waterbodies or in groundwater will not be referred to as riparian rights.

Nor will we call riparian those rights that must be acquired and

perfected by getting a permit, because riparian rights traditionally

came about by owning land on the bank of a stream and without any need

for further action by the landowner. Today, even if you own land on a

navigable stream, not all of your rights can properly be called "riparian

rights" because, under the recent statute, you must do something (get a

permit) to acquire and to exercise certain rights to use water.

As we have defined the term, only the following "riparian" rights

remain unchanged by the effects of the 1972 statute: access, boating,

bathing, fishing, ingress, egress, wharfing and view.

B. How do you acquire "riparian" rights?

You acquire riparian rights (those riparian rights remaining after

the 1972 statute) by ownership of land abutting on certain waters. If

you own land immediately bordering on a NATURAL NAVIGABLE WATERCOURSE or

WATERBODY, the above named riparian rights automatically belong to you.

C. What is a NATURAL watercourse or waterbody?

The difference between a river, tributary, creek, stream or ditch

is largely one of degree measured by the size, length and breadth of the

5 -
watercourse in question. They may all be brought under the definition of

a watercourse if they consist of a channel, with banks, bed and running

water. It is not necessary that the water flow constantly, uniformly or

uninterruptedly. If the other elements exist, a stream will not lose its

character or cease to be a natural watercourse simply because in time of

drought the flow may be diminished or temporarily suspended. All that

is necessary is that it is usually a stream of running water.

The term lake or pond generally refers to a reasonably permanent

inland body of water substantially at rest in a depression in the land.

A lake or pond is distinguished from a water course primarily by the

former's lack of a regularly flowing current of water. Size alone

distinguishes a pond from a lake, but the terms are unimportant; for

legal purposes, they are treated equally.

Man-made ponds, lakes, streams and waterways are not considered

natural watercourses or waterbodies. Nor is general run-off (called

diffused surface water) to be considered in the same category as natural

watercourses or waterbodies even though land owners do have certain

rights with respect to this type of water. These rights will be discussed


D. What is a natural NAVIGABLE watercourse or waterbody?

Navigable waters are those that, by virtue of their size, depth

or other conditions are in fact capable of navigation or which flow or

are evolved from such sources for useful public purposes. The factor

that determines whether or not water is navigable is its capacity for

navigation and not necessarily actual use for that purpose. This

determination is a question of fact to be established case by case.

The critical date for ascertaining whether the watercourse or waterbody

6 -
is navigable is the time of statehood. It is immaterial that the

waterbody or watercourse is not presently used for commerce or that it has

not been so used for many years so long as it was used or susceptible for

use at the time the state was admitted to the Union. Moreover, once a

body of water is established as "navigable" it does not lose that

distinction even though man-made dams or other changes make it unfit for

navigation. This distinction is important to the determination of

ownership of land covered by the water as well as the determination of

riparian rights.

Nonnavigable waterbodies and watercourses are subject to private

ownership. No riparian rights exist in such waters. Instead, another

set of rights and correlative duties are present. If, however, the

waters are navigable, riparian rights exist and the public generally is

entitled to certain additional rights that must be respected even by

the riparian owner.

All navigable waters are held by the state for the benefit of the

whole people. The owner of the land abutting on the navigable waters

has no exclusive right in the water or land below ordinary high water

mark. Indeed, the state, upon admission to the Union, by virtue of its

sovereignty assumed title to and authority over the beds underlying

navigable waters in the state. The state's powers are limited to be

sure by the power of the federal government to regulate commerce but

nevertheless are real and may be exercised in the interest of the public.

Artifically created, or man-made watercourses or waterbodies are

generally not considered to be navigable even though they are in fact

used for navigation or commerce. In other states, if a man-made channel

is constructed with the intention of being used permanently, and has been

7 -
used consistently for this prupose for a considerable time, it may

acquire the attributes of a natural navigable watercourse. Florida has

not yet taken such a position. Florida does, however, allow the public

to acquire rights in nonnavigable watercourses based on land and

continuous use, but the time period of such use is considerable and

generally must be uninterrupted.

If the watercourse or waterbody is naturally nonnavigable such

man-made improvements as dredging and filling will not result in the

creation of a navigable waterbody. The beds under the waters remain in

private hands and no riparian rights or rights in the public generally

will be created. An exception to this rule may be found where the state

acquires the underlying land and then does the improvement.

The creation and use of any artificial watercourse such as a canal

which empties into or diverts water from another waterway by itself will

not be sufficient to generate riparian rights. However, it would probably

come under the jurisdiction of the recent statute such as to require

permits for those types of uses that are covered by the statute.

For riparian rights to exist, ownership must extend to the ordinary

high water mark of navigable waters. The ordinary high water mark must

be the boundary of the land. Without such a boundary the owner will not

have riparian rights.

E. What is the extent of riparian rights?

By law, a riparian owner (even after the 1972 statute) has the

rights of ingress, egress, boating, bathing, and fishing and whatever

theirr rights as may be or have been defined by law. Case law provides

that the riparian has the right to erect on the bed and shore adjacent

to his riparian holdings bath houses, wharves, or other structures needed

8 -
to facilitate his business or pleasure.

Riparian rights are not exclusive and the riparian owner may not

monopolize navigation or commerce or unreasonably burden the navigation

or commerce of others. The determination of whether there has been an

interference with the rights of others is a fact question to be resolved

according to the circumstances of each case. Factors that have frequently

been considered in determining whether a particular project causes

unreasonable interference include the size of the waterbody, size of the

proposed development, its extension from the shore, and the nature and

intensity of other existing uses. A riparian owner should consider as

well the possibility that his occupation of a part of the surface of the

water might block from use other portions of the same waterbody.

A riparian cannot construct buildings on his land that block the

view of other owners. Although the riparian owner enjoys the right to an

unobstructed view over the waters, this right appears to mean only a view

as opposed to the best possible view. Some reasonable interference of

view is likely to be tolerated.

Riparian rights are considered property rights of the riparian land

owner. If they are taken by governmental action--either through the

exercise of the power of eminent domain or through unreasonable, arbitrary

and confiscatory regulation--compensation will be owed to the riparian owner.

Regulation is tolerated, however, where there is an overriding state

interest in keeping the channel open and a state responsibility for insuring

that the riparian owner does not invade public rights without a legal basis.

Thus, a permit is generally required for any construction in or over

navigable waters and for any dredging and filling activity that may occur

in the navigable waters even if it is associated with the exercise of a
riparian right.

F. What rights does the general public have in natural navigable

watercourses or waterbodies?

If the waters are navigable such that the beds under the water are

state owned, certain rights belong to the public in general. First, the

public is entitled to ingress and egress and a limited right of view.

In addition, the public is given the right to navigate the waters once

lawful access has been gained. The public does not have the right to

trespass private property to gain access, however.

In Florida, the public has the right of passage along the shore

below the ordinary high water mark. The riparian owner owns only to the

ordinary high water mark; from that point landward, he is in full control.

The public right cannot be interfered with unreasonably by the

riparian owner, even in an attempt to exercise other riparian rights.

For example, a riparian owner might not be able to build a particular

kind of wharf if it would unreasonably prevent the public from exercising

their right of passage along the shore.

Several other rights need to be mentioned. One is that of boating

on natural navigable water. This right extends to both commercial

and recreational boating. It would also appear to extend to towing

water skiers. However, the exercise of this right must not interfere

with the exercise of riparian rights and might be abated as a private

nuisance should it cause such interference. On the other hand, the

riparian owner would not be allowed to unreasonably obstruct the public

in the enjoyment of this right.

Similar to boating are the rights of fishing and swimming. Although

the public would not have access to a riparian owner's private pier for

the purposes of fishing or swimming, the public could object if the

10 -
owner attempted to withdraw from possible public access a portion of a

navigable waterbody by constructing a pier or other structure. As with

other rights of this nature, the state may reasonably restrict their

exercise and, for example, may lawfully do so be requiring a permit to

fish or by imposing a limit on the number of fish caught.

G. What rights does an owner of land abutting on nonnavigable

waters have?

Nonnavigable lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers are subject to

private ownership. The state has declared by statute that lakes conveyed

to private individuals by the United States or by the State of Florida

prior to 1953 would be considered nonnavigable. Otherwise, to be

considered nonnavigable the body of water must fail to meet the test of

navigability as outlined above.

Rights to the use of nonnavigable waters depend on ownership of

land on the banks of the water and on whether there are other similar

owners. When all the land surrounding an inland, nonnavigable lake

belongs to a single property owner, the lake for all intents and purposes

is considered private property and no one has a right to make any use of the

water other than the owner of the surrounding land. Even if the lake is

large and potentially useful to the public at large for recreational use,

the public cannot condemn a right to access to the lake, nor use the

water of the lake.

If, on the other hand, there is more than one owner of land

adjacent to the nonnavigable lake, no one owner has exclusive control

over even the portion of the bed he owns (however large that portion
might be), and he must pay due regard to the lawful rights of any

other adjoining owner. The rights of all such owners are equal regardless

11 -
of the portion of the bed actually owned by each one individually. The

use of each is permitted only so long as it is reasonable and does not

unreasonably interfere with the rights of the other adjoining landowners.

Of course, it is not possible to make a list of the things a holder of

rights in a nonnavigable body of water can or cannot do.

The principles just discussed with respect to lakes and ponds apply

equally to nonnavigable streams, creeks and rivers. There, of course,

the likelihood of one single owner owning the entire length of the

stream is not as great as that of having only one owner on a lake. As

a result, most owners of land on a nonnavigable river or stream must

naturally respect the rights of those below and above them on the


The rights of owners on nonnavigable waterbodies are not subject to

nor are they shared with the general public. The general public has no

right in a nonnavigable waterbody.

Even in nonnavigable waters any consumptive use (other than domestic

use by individual users), impoundment, diversion or extraction is regulated

by the 1972 statute regardless of the source of water. Thus, even though

in one sense the rights in nonnavigable water are potentially greater

than those in navigable waters, they are subject to the same statutory

restrictions. If a permit is not required, the owner of land abutting

on a nonnavigable waterbody is not restricted in the use to be made of

the water except that the use must be reasonable relative to whatever

another owner on the same waterbody may wish to do or be able to do.

H. What are the rights of a landowner with respect to diffused

surface water?

Diffused surface waters are those derived from falling rain and

12 -
melting snow or which rise to the surface from springs and are diffused

over the ground. In most cases, a spring which flows into a defined

channel and the waters of a permanent well-defined swamp would not be

considered diffused surface water. Diffused surface waters retain this

classification only so long as they remain diffused and do not seep

into the ground or join a defined body of water.

Although diffused surface waters are usually transitory and are not

generally present long enough for systematic appropriation, they are

subject to statutory restrictions. A permit is required to use (other

than use for domestic consumption by individual users), impound, divert,

or extract diffused surface water. Some rights appear to have been left

unchanged by the statute, however.

Florida has recognized that an upper owner has an easement in a

lower owner's land for drainage of diffused surface water. The lower

owner cannot obstruct this natural drainage if to do so unreasonably

interferes with the use of the upper land. For example, a lower owner

may not build a retaining wall to prevent the flow of water from the

upper property, thus interfering with the use of the upper land. On

the other hand, the lower owner has a right to have the water drain to

his property according to the natural drainage pattern and an upper

owner may not prevent the water from passing to the lower owner if it

would naturally have drained that way. The upper owner may accelerate

and enhance the natural drainage from his land if to do so will not cause

damage, but may not gather waters that would have flowed in one direction

and cast them onto another's property in a different direction. Again,

the test to be met is whether the use of the land is reasonable relative

to the rights of the other owners and whether the obstruction caused is

13 -
unreasonable. Each case, then, must necessarily be judged on its facts

and merits.

Legislative restrictions on the right to impound or divert diffused

surface waters, in addition to the possibility of permits for the use of

such waters will be discussed later.

I. What rights to ground water remain unaffected by the 1972


Few, if any, common law rights to ground water remain unaffected by

the recent statute. Ground water is broadly defined as any water below

the surface of the earth, such as that which supplies wells and springs.

Subterranean waters are generally divided into two main groups:

underground streams which flow in known and ascertainable channels, and

percolating ground water which oozes, seeps or percolates through the

earth or flows in unknown or undefined channels. If the existence of

an underground stream is established, the law respecting surface

watercourses would apply such that owners of the overlying lands would

have riparian rights to the water. Definite proof of the existence of

such an underground stream is necessary, however, as there is a legal

persumption that the ground water is percolating in the absence of

such proof. This is of little practical significance since no riparian

rights have survived the statute of a kind that could practically be

exercised in the ground water. Any consumptive use or extraction is

now regulated by statute (except for domestic use by individual users).

J. Can any of the rights that have not been affected by the

statute be sold or otherwise transferred?

Clearly, riparian rights are property rights. The same is true

of the rights of landowners on nonnavigable waterbodies. These rights

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are transferred with considerable regularity and frequency. However,

they cannot be sold separately from the land. They are automatically

created as a result of ownership of the land and equally automatically

pass with the property when it is sold or transferred. The rights are

seen by the law as part of the ownership of the land.

15 -

A. Why can the government create, alter, modify and destroy or

regulate water rights?

The various water use rights stemmed originally and primarily from

our English heritage and their recognition by the courts in the United

States. As this country became more populated and industrialized, some

water uses were no longer recognized as rights. Changing needs created

new uses which were recognized by the courts to be enforcable rights.

Some of the old water use rights were changed to accommodate technological

and economic innovations.

In some instances these changes resulted from court action, while in

others changes were made by legislation. Regardless of the origin of the

present water use rights, they are the basic use rights of individual

citizens. Governmental regulations of many kinds limit and define these

rights. The need for these governmental regulations flows from two

basic ideas. First is the concept that only the right to use water can

be owned. Water itself is not capable of ownership by an individual.

Second is the concept that individual users sometimes use water in a way

which is harmful to others, and that some governing body must reconcile

the conflict.

Governmental regulations limit uses of water which are harmful to

the community. Thus, under its police powers the Florida Legislature

has begun programs to deal with pollution, floods and conservation of

water. These programs result in restrictions on individual water

rights, but two points must be recognized. First, water rights have

been created by law and exist unchanged, only so long as the law is

unchanged. Second, the government can alter, modify, change or destroy

16 -
water rights only so long as it acts in the interest of the public

health, safety, morals or welfare and does not act in an arbitrary,

capricious, or unreasonable manner.

B. How are the statutory rights acquired?

As a basic proposition, no person can make any withdrawal, diversion,

impoundment or consumptive use of water without getting a permit. You

may, however, use water for individual personal needs or for such

household purposes as drinking, bathing, heating, cooking or sanitation

without a permit. The water management districts determine when permits

are required and may impose reasonable conditions on the exercise of a

permit right.

C. What criteria must be met to get a permit?

The statute requires an applicant to establish that the proposed

use of water --

1. will be reasonable and beneficial

2. will not interfere with any presently existing legal use

of water; and

3. will be consistent with the public interest.

The water management districts will require also such specific

information as the identity of the user, the source of water, the

amount of water and the place of use.

Reasonable-beneficial use is defined in the statute as the use of

water in such quantity 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.

D. If a permit is granted, where can the water be used?

Under the common law, the user of water was required to use it on

17 -

riparian land or on land overlying the source of water. The owner could

not transport the water to another plot of land, nor could a nonriparian

bring the water to his place. That doctrine has been substantially

modified over the years. In Florida now, if water is to be used on

other than overlying land or outside the watershed from which it is

taken, authorization must be secured from the water management district.

Permission will be granted if such transport and use is consistent

with the public interest.

E. How long is the permit good?

Under the 1972 law water consumption permits have a time limit.

The duration may be as long as twenty years for individual users or

up to fifty years for a municipality, a governing body, a public works

or a public service corporation. Permits are granted also for construction,

impoundment or alterations of existing works. Time limits on these are

not as important as permits for consumption, though the permits will

expire generally within a specified period if the works authorized are

not constructed or completed.

F. Can a permit be revoked?

The use of false or misleading statements in the application,

willful violation of the conditions in the permit, or non-use of the

permitted use for two years or more may be sufficient basis for revoking

a permit. Note, also that if a water shortage occurs the water

management districts have special powers to limit consumption by

each permit holder. Different classes of permits, or different types

of uses, may be treated differently. Some uses may be limited, others

may be suspended entirely.

G. May a permit be renewed?

18 -
The renewal process is similar to the original application procedure.

If the permit sought is only for a continuation of the present permitted

use renewal may be granted unless there are competing demands. The law

requires districts to give precedence to an application for renewal

over new applications of equal merit.

H. Can permit rights be transferred?

The statute is not clear on this point. Generally water use rights

are not freely alienable and most likely they cannot be transferred

apart from the land for which they were granted. The courts may hold that

the right is personal to the permit holder and is extinguished if an

attempted transfer occurs, but nothing in the statute clearly justifies

this conclusion.

I. What other ways can water be regulated by government?

The government may regulate water use as it controls pollution.

Generally, anything that would not naturally be in a body of water is

considered to be pollution. Examples are heat, waste chemicals, cow

dung and silt. While there are many types of pollution the government

so far is concerned only with regulating a few of the more harmful

forms. In particular the state regulates point source pollution which

injures plant or animal life. Point source pollution refers to pollution

from an identifiable source, such as a canal, pipe, feedlot or ditch.

This distinction is made as a matter of necessity. A quantitative

measurement can be made of the amount of waste flowing through a pipe,

but it is not so easy to measure the amount of pollution resulting

from fertilizing farm land. Similarly, the state regulates pollution

only to the extent that it injures some form of life. In other words

only pollution exceeding a safe amount is controlled. Once again this

19 -

distinction is drawn by necessity.

J. Who specifically is given authority to regulate pollution?

In theory both the state and the federal government regulate water

pollution. In fact the federal government has given its regulatory

powers to the state governments and has retained only a power to supervise

the states' activities or a power to act in the absence or inadequacy

of state action. Therefore, should you need advice on acceptable

pollution levels of a waste product being discharged or to be discharged

into a body of water, write or call:

Department of Environmental Regulation
Bureau of Waste Water Management
Executive Center Circle, East
Montgomery Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Telephone 904/488-8163

K. What is an acceptable level of pollution?

In Florida there is no one standard for each type of pollutant.

The standard varies with the frequency of the discharge, the size and

quality of the receiving waters, the type of pollutant and so on. In

effect the Bureau of Waste Water Management tailors the acceptable

level for each polluter of each waterbody. This process is accomplished

through a permit system. The law states that no one may discharge

waste into receiving waters which would unduly reduce the water quality.

Thus, each person, who wishes to discharge waste, has the obligation to

apply for a permit. After reviewing an application the Bureau may deny,

grant without reservation, or grant the permit subject to stated


L. What are Water Management Districts and what do they do?

The water management districts are concerned with the quantity of

20 -

water consumed by various users and the quantity available for use. Note

that there is essentially no overlap between the water management

districts, which regulate the amount of water used, and the Bureau of

Waste Water Management, which regulates water quality.

There are five water management and flood control districts in the

state. The North West Florida Water Management District roughly covers

the panhandle region, including Leon and Wakulla Counties. The Suwannee

River Water Management District includes the Santa Fe and Suwannee River

basins, plus Columbia, Union and Bradford Counties and parts of Alachua,

Gilchrist and Levy Counties. The St. Johns River Water Management

District is the St. Johns River basin including portions of Alachua,

Marion, Lake and Orange Counties. The South West Florida Water

Management District is the area encompassed by the Wacassa River,

Oklawaha River, Green Swamp and Peace River basins, including portions

of Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Lake,Polk Counties, all of Hardee and Desoto

Counties, and the northwest corner of Charlotte County. The Central

and Southern Florida Flood Control District is the southern tip of the

peninsula including all of Brevard County and portions of Orange, Polk

and Charlotte Counties. The boundaries of these districts are not firmly

or finally set as of mid-1976. Some changes in boundaries likely will be

made in the next few months.

The addresses of the various districts are:

North West Florida Water Management District
325 John Knox Road, Suite C135
Tallahassee, Florida 32303
Telephone: 904/488-8281

Suwannee River Water Management District
Bridge Street
P. 0. Drawer K
White Springs, Florida 32096
Telephone: 904/396-5051

21 -
St. John's River Water Management District
1101 Highway 19
Route 2, Box 695
Palatka, Florida 32077
Telephone: 904/325-5384

South West Florida Water Management District
P. 0. Box 457
Brookesville, Florida 33512
Telephone: 904/796-7211

Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District
P. 0. Box B
West Palm Beach, Florida 32402
Telephone: 305/655-3411

M. How do the districts regulate water use?

All of the districts are charged with limiting the amount of water

used to the ability of the natural environment to replenish the supply.

The districts regulate the use of water through a permit system. You

must get a permit for: (1) construction involving underground formations;

(2) a consumptive use of water other than for domestic purposes; (3)

construction, repair or abandonment of a well; (4) construction or

alteration of any dam or impoundment, or construction or alteration of

any structure which might affect any of the works of the district; and

(5) maintenance or operation of any dam, impoundment or related work.

In summary, these situations cover almost every aspect of water use

except use for domestic purposes.

If a permit is needed or if you are not sure whether a permit is

needed, check with your district.

N. Who regulates dredging and filling?

Dredging or filling in a large number of bodies of water, or even

filling in or near any navigable body of water is subject to federal

regulation. For instance, the filling of a tidal marsh is regulated

by the federal government even when the fill is reached by the tide

only during Spring tides.

22 -
The Army Corps of Engineers has authority to issue permits for

dredging or filling of any waters. You must obtain a permit before

beginning to dredge or fill. The procedure is fairly simple and is

begun by writing or calling the Corps. The address for Florida is:

U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District
P. 0. Box 4970
Jacksonville, Florida 32201
Telephone: 904/791-2234

In addition, any dredging or filling of any of the waters of

Florida is regulated by the Department of Environmental Regulation.

You must get a permit there, too. The Department of Environmental

Regulation address is:

Department of Environmental Regulation
Bureau of Permitting
2562 Executive Center Circle, East
Montgomery Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Telephone: 904/487-1580

0. Who regulates water use in areas of "Critical State Concern"

or "Endangered Lands"?

The State of Florida passed a bond issue to finance purchase of

environmentally endangered lands. Generally, the land purchased is

unique for some reason, is fairly small in area and is particularly

vulnerable to destruction unless the State buys it. Regulation or

control of such land poses no problem because the land is actually owned

by the state and the state exercises proprietary control. Note, however,

that not all state-owned lands are "environmentally endangered." For

the most part, the environmentally endangered lands program is a means

for the State to acquire and protect unique natural areas. It is not

directly a limitation on water use rights. The environmentally endangered
lands program affects water rights only to the extent that a particular

23 -
use of water might adversely affect the state land, or public interest

in the land.

Information about endangered lands can be obtained by writing or


Department of Natural Resources
Division of Recreation and Parks
Crown Building
202 Blunt Street
Talahassee, Florida 32304
Telephone: 904/488-6242

Areas of "Critical State Concern" possess some special trait that

needs to be protected. They are not purchased by the State, but

special regulations are imposed to limit use or development to an

acceptable kind and degree. Not all development is prohibited, rather

only development that would tend to injure the special character of the

land. The effect of Areas of Critical State Concern on water rights is

limited only by the special regulations themselves. At present, the

Areas of Critical State Concern are the Big Cypress Swamp, the Green

Swamp, and the Florida Keys.

When an area is designated as being of Critical State Concern, the

characteristics to be protected are specified, and rules are promulgated

to insure their protection. The rules are enacted and administered by

the county commissions, and are supervised by the state government.

Thus, development in Big Cypress Swamp and the Florida Keys is

administered by Monroe County. Development in the Green Swamp is

administered by Lake and Polk Counties.

For information on areas of Critical State Concern write or call:

Division of State Planning
660 Appalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, Florida 32304
Telephone: 904/488-4925

- 24 -

For Big Cypress Swamp and the Florida Keys write or call:

Director of Planning and Zoning
Public Service Building, Wing 2
Stock Island
Key West, Florida 33040
Telephone: 305/294-4641

For Green Swamp, Lake County, write or call:

Director of Planning
416 W. Main Street
Tavares, FLorida 32778
Telephone: 904/343-5152

For Green Swamp, Polk County, write or call:

Division of Development Coordination
P. 0. Box 1909
Bartow, Florida 33830
Telephone: 813/533-1161

Single copies free to residents of Florida. Bulk rates
available upon request. Please submit details on request
to Chairman, Editorial Department, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,Gainesville,
Florida 32611.

This publication was promulgated at a cost of $936.25,
or 37 cents per copy, to inform extension workers,
landowners and the public about the essential features
of Florida Water law.

Institute of Fond and Agricultural Sciences



(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
Joe N. Busby, Dean

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