Title: Water Districts are Critical Tool
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Title: Water Districts are Critical Tool
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
 Subjects
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
 Notes
Abstract: Article Water Districts are Critical Too
General Note: Box 7, Folder 2 ( Vail Conference 1987 - 1987 ), Item 39
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
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Bibliographic ID: WL00000763
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
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Water districts are critical tool


By LEX McKEITHEN
I can see it coming: a giant pump drawing water out of
the Suwannee river and pumping it through a guarded
pipeline to wastewater treatment plants in Tampa, Orlan-
do, and Miami. The pipeline would require guards be-
:ause of the strong, possibly violent, resentment on the
part of many North Floridians who would tend to believe
that "their" water was being used to drown out the
screams that the urban planners of Metropolitan Florida
were a bunch of fools. And I would be inclined to agree
with them.
Only fools would continue to allow nearly uncontrolled
growth while obviously running out of the natural re-
sources necessary for the support of new residents and
industries. Urban greed for a larger tax base combined
with the Influence of developers must be a powerful
foolmaking force. I can think of few other reasons to
account for the fact that the big city officials have failed
to provide the leadership necessary for aligning growth
with reality.
Of course, the reality for those of us residing over the
bountiful North Florida aquifer is that our area Is also
growing and we must protect our water resource from
ourselves as well as those who would siphon off some of
the abundance. Ideally, we should be determining our
future needs, locating and quantifying our resources and
establishing policies that will provide for the years to"
come. And believe it or not, much of this is happening.
Thanks to an amazingly farsighted Legislature, we have
a governmental entity in the right place and at the right
time to deal with the water e water manage-
ment districts.
The water management districts have been variously
described as the new bureaucratic empire builders, as
another unelected taxing authority, as the emerging ma-
jor opponent or proponent of industry and agriculture
and/or as guardians of Florida's future. Take your pick.
They are all of these things and more. But from any
perspective they still represent North Florida's best hope
for dealing with growth management and the ominous
problem of urban political power.
The districts were created as virtually autonomous re-
gional authorities charged with preserving their respec-
tive water supplies in accordance with scientific
principles and political realities. The staffs represent the
scientific approach while the boards reflect the political
necessities of each region.
The board members, appointed by the governor from
the communities within the districts, assess property tax-
es, promulgate rules within legislative guidelines, levy
fines, and hire staff. The staffs (bureaucrats to some),


administer the laws and rules, issue permits and citations,
monitor the resources, and, most importantly, plan for all
contingencies.
Normally, the public is adamantly opposed to new bu-
reaucracies, but the water districts seem to have escaped
the scathing criticism most burgeoning government agen-
cies receive from all quarters. Perhaps their role in pro-
tecting such a valuable resource has been appreciated or
all the favorable publicity that has accompanied the en-
dangered lands acquisition program has served to foster
good public relations. What is more likely, is that most
folks Just haven't had to do business with them, yet But
that will change as their influence becomes more perva-
sive and the predicted water wars become more certain.
And the future is getting close. Already there are water
wars going on in other parts of the state. Pinellas and
Hillsborough counties have received approval to draw
more water from a reluctant Pasco County, whose offi-
cials believe that they will one day have to import water
themselves. And the St. Johns Water Management Dis-
trict, Deseret Ranches, the city of Melbourne and others
are embroiled in a squabble over consumptive use per-
mits for water located in Osceola County.
It is just a matter of time before the North Florida
water districts receive demands from thirsty
metropolises for water to be pumped to their parched
developments. The demands will-be accompanied by
threats of legislative command. And considering the legis-
lative power of the urban coalitions vs. the rural minority,
we don't stand a chance. Unless...
Unless our districts have in hand a comprehensive,
scientifically reasonable plan that would allow us to de-
termine our future water requirements, how much we
could afford to sell, at what price the bidding must start,
where it's to be pumped from and all the other particulars
that good business practices would require of a fair and
equitable contract. The existence and terms of this con-
tract would be widely publicized as an effort to assist our
urban neighbors while following sound business prac-
tices. This would serve to establish public acceptance of
the concept and the solid business foundation of the dis-
tricts while making it very difficult, both legally and from
a public relations perspective, for an urban district to
attempt an outright confiscation of our water.
Ideally, we will not only profit from the arrangement
while protecting our future, but we will, in the process,
gain a little political leverage that could come in handy in
other urban vs rural battles.
But first, the water management people had better
come up with the plan. Otherwise we'll have some new
targets for the foolkiller and plenty of openings for pipe-
line guards.


(CF~~jidd~




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