Policy Issues Facing Water Management In Florida
A key element of the Water Resources Act of 1972 was the establishment
of a viable system of allocation of Florida's water resources for reasonable
and beneficial uses. By all accounts, the Florida system of water allocation
is working well. Although the allocation system is considered by most
observers to be working well, other water supply issues need attention.
How will access to a dependable water supply be assured for all
competing users as Florida continues to experience unparalleled growth
into the next century?
Has Florida developed a practical, cost effective and beneficial approach
to water conservation and reuse?
Is interdistrict transfer of water a necessary part of Florida's future?
Under what limitations, controls or management scheme can
interdistrict transfers be made a beneficial part of Florida's future?
How should the infrastructure needed to meet Florida's future water
supply demands be provided? Who pays?
Florida is a state where development to accommodate our growth,
environmental resource management, and water resource management are
delicately intertwined with the surfacewater resources of the State. What
policies (or policy changes) are necessary to insure that future citizens of
Florida receive flood protection, that surfacewater resources are not
polluted or degraded and that environmental resources are protected?
At what level of government (federal, state, regional or local) should
regulation of surfacewater/stormwater impacts occur?
Should environmental resource management (i.e. wetlands) be an
integral part of surfacewater/stormwater regulation?
Does Florida need to develop a guiding policy for implementation of-
wetland management programs?
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How should the infrastructure needed to meet Florida's future
surfacewater management, drainage and flood control demands be
provided? How should retrofit of existing systems be accomplished?
Intergovernmental Relationships and Efficiency
What policy revisions or interagency communication/coordination
mechanisms are needed for government at all levels (federal, state,
regional and local) to effectively implement their respective resource
management missions without inviting conflict?
Environmental Efficiency Study Commission
The Environmental Efficiency Study Commission reported to the
Governor and Legislature in 1988 that the system of water management
in Florida is "not broken" but that there is correctable inefficiency,
overlap, duplication or conflict between government agencies charged
with resource management missions in Florida.
Can the recommendations of the Commission be used as the
foundation of change to the land development, environmental
resource management and water resource management policies of
How should Florida view regulation: first alternative; most
economical alternative; last alternative; or, part of a strategic
How will changes to the policies or implementation strategies for
land development, environmental or water resource management in
Florida be funded?
How should regulatory responsibilities be assigned to a unit of
government (federal, state, regional or local)?
What is the State's role in regulation: policy setting; standard setting;
--Comprehensive Planning and Plan Implementation
Beginning in 1991, local government comprehensive plans and the
implementing ordinances of local government will be adopted. The
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requirements of the new plans for implementing ordinances,
consistency with State and regional policy planning efforts and
concurrency of growth and infrastructure needs is an ambitious goal for
Florida. Other than the obvious responsibility to supply timely
information, what role should government institutions such as the
Florida water management districts play in the development and
implementation of the new -local government comprehensive plans?
Should district participation be with the local government, the
reviewing agency (RPC's & DCA) or both? Should the district
vigorously object to inconsistencies with district plans, policies or
When should a government institution such as the Florida water
management district enter or participate in a local government land
use decision to implement the district's regulatory responsibilities?
Should the districts act independently without regard to the local
land use decision, after a land use decision is made or throughout the
land use decision-making process?
The Institution of Water Management in Florida
In 1972 Florida implemented a new and progressive system of water and
related natural resources management in the State with the enactment of
the Water Resources Act. The evolution of the water management districts
as an institution has progressed to the point where the institution is
viewed throughout the United States as a model system of resource
management with broad responsibilities, authority and funding.
Nonetheless, it is appropriate to raise the question: is Florida's institutional
system of water management districts capable of meeting the challenges of
water and related natural resource management facing the State in the
decade of the 1990's and into the 21st century?
The water management district Governing Boards are appointed by the
Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Each water management
district has 9 Board members who have historically been appointed to
fill specific seats from watershed or basin areas within the district or to
fill an "at large" seat. After enactment of-the Water. Resources Act..- --
limitations were added to insure that no more than two Board Members
were appointed from any one county and in 1988 the Legislature
altered the representation of the Southwest Florida Water Management
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to change the appointments of Board Members to represent specific
counties. All Governing Board Members serve 4 year terms without
Should Board Members be elected or appointed?
Will Board Members from local political jurisdictions represent the
interests of the local jurisdiction rather than the region?
Will Board Members from local political jurisdictions increase the
demand for more Board Members (i.e. each jurisdiction must have
one or more members)?
Water Management District Oversight and Accountability
General oversight responsibility for the water management districts
rests with the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. In
addition, virtually every legislative session since the enactment of the
Water Resources Act has seen review of water management programs
by the legislature and amendment to the Water Resources Act. Each
water management district is required by law to hold at least one public
meeting a month where the general public or persons affected by
district actions can voice concerns or comment. All district activities are
governed by the Administrative Procedures -Act, the Government in the
Sunshine Act, district records are subject to the Florida Public Records
laws and all budget activities are subject to the Truth in Millage Act.
All water management districts perform annual audits of all financial
Is the oversight responsibility of Florida Department of
Environmental Regulations working?
Should the Administrative Procedures Act (specifically s.120.60, F.S.)
be reviewed with respect to the operation of the collegial Governing
Boards of the districts to determine if refinement may be needed to
improve district administrative procedures for public participation in
Should the Truth in Millage Act be reviewed with respect to water
management district budgetary processes to insure the public is
accurately informed as to the budget priorities and afforded
opportunity to comment?
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The general water management responsibilities of the districts are-
funded through the annual levy of an ad valorem tax as specifically
authorized by the Florida Constitution (the Constitution was revised to
allow the districts to levy an ad valorem tax by popular vote in 1975).
All water management districts are authorized by the Constitution to-
levy up to 1 mil (one dollar per one-thousand dollars of assessed value)
except the Northwest Florida Water Management District which is
limited to 0.5 mil (5 cents per one-thousand dollars of assessed value).
In addition the Legislature can limit the ad valorem tax levy by
placement of a statutory cap. In the South Florida Water Management
District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District the
ability to assess up to 1 mil of ad valorem is split between the districts
and their respective basin boards. Other sources of revenue for general
water management purposes include permit fees and miscellaneous
Should the Constitution be amended to equalize the ad valorem tax
cap for the Northwest Florida Water Management District?
Should new programs be linked to new funding sources to insure
that the long term financial stability of the districts?
Should the split between the portion of ad valorem tax levied by
basin boards and the portion of the ad valorem tax levied by the
district be reviewed with respect to the changing responsibilities of
the districts and their respective basins?
Should statutorily mandated programs which require a funding
match from district generated revenues be reviewed to determine if
match requirements should be waived for districts with funding
Water Management District Boundaries
The original water management district boundaries were established in
the Water Resources Act to closely approximate the hydrologic divides
of the major watersheds and basins in Florida. The original boundaries
followed the premise that to implement resource management on a
regional scale required management jurisdiction over the entire
contributing watershed of the water body. That premise continues
today and has been strengthened by the success of flood control,
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surfacewater management and, to a lesser extent, water supply
programs of the districts. Nonetheless, the report of the Sub Sfi'le ""
District Boundaries Committee to the Legislature in 1987 called for the
realignment of water management district boundaries to more naturally
recognizable boundaries (county lines, roads, etc.), presumably to lessen
confusion that exists with the general public and special interest groups
affected by water management district programs and to increase the
efficiency of service delivery to the public. The Committee also
recommended alignment of all other sub-state districts of state agencies
and regional planning councils to the new water management district
boundaries. The 1987 and 1988 legislative sessions have seen no action
on the Committee's recommendations.
Should the report of the Sub-State District Boundaries Committee be
reviewed to determine if realignment of water management district
boundaries to more naturally recognizable boundaries is desirable?
Should all sub-state districts be realigned to a common boundary
Does realignment of water management district boundaries
jeopardize management programs or federally assisted flood control
projects of the districts?
Does realignment of water management district boundaries
jeopardize Florida's regional water management system, particularly
as the change might impact surfacewater management and flood
Will realignment actually resolve real or perceived problems,
increase the effectiveness of management programs or increase the
delivery of services to the public?
Do alternatives to boundary change exist?
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