FROM T SK OF THE CHIEF HYDROLOGIST: On Getting A Fair Share of Our
The question has been raised several times in recent months about how cities
V 4nd counties could be sure of getting their "fair share" of the dwindling, remain-
ihg, undeveloped water resources. Additionally, large industrial, commercial and
Y agricultural interests all have asked this question -- or some variant of it.
Currently, according to the newspapers, Pasco County is considering filing a
lawsuit to .prevent any further development of the water resources in Pasco
mty for export outside the county. They are interested in protecting "their"
The problem of how to determine any geographic area's fair share of the
waters of Florida has not been solved; nor is it likely to be in the near future.
Prior to the
establishment of the Southwest Florida Water Management District(R), a land-
owner residing within the District could develop and use water in any reasonable,
useful and non-wasteful manner that he chose so long as he did not infringe on
the rights of his neighbors. Furthermore, he did not need to ask anyone's per-
mission to do so. Beginning in January 1970, under authority of Ch. 357R-1,
Florida Administrative Code, any well of 2" diameter or larger must be permitted
-and all drillers are required to-register and have a well permit to drill any
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well. Ch. 357R-1 was superseded by Ch. 16CC, Florida AiAnistrative Code,
effective February 3, 1972, but did not change any basic requirements of.357R-1.
For household purposes any citizen may develop his own well but he needs to
secure a permit to do so. Very few persons ever make use of the option to drill
or dig their own family-supply wells. If a person does infringe on the water
rights of his neighbor, he is liable to a damage suit brought in a civil court
of jurisdiction by those seeking redress.
In general, Florida follows the English law of riparian rights, modified
to the extent that a taker must make reasonable use of his taking. But this
law is difficult to apply in an area such as Florida where riparian rights, which
were originated to cover stream-flow usage, cannot be easily or readily applied
to aquifer flow and storage. Here, at least in peninsular Florida, more than 90
percent of all water developed and possible of future development is from ground-
water sources, chiefly from the Floridan Aquifer which underlies the entire state
to depths of up to about 2,000 feet and extends northward into Alabama and Georgia.
In the past, when population was smaller and the demand on water supply was
much less than it is now, there was little cause for concern about who owned what
water. There was plenty for everyone and in fact, at times and in certain places
there was far too much; because of this Floridans were chiefly concerned with
getting rid of water. Thus, efforts to drain the wetlands for reclamation began
in late 1800's and the efforts continue to this date in parts of the State, on
an accelerated scale. But the current drainage for reclamation is no longer
chiefly for agricultural purposes. Now it is mostly to make more property avail-
able for real-estate developments. "New Towns" are springing up almost everywhere,
some of them planned for wetland sites such as parts of the Green Swamp and the
Cypress Creek Swamp (central Pasco County) where, in normal times of flooding, the
water may rise above the land surface to 10 feet or even more! Wherever in the
wetlands such developments occur and the land must be drained to allow for the
developments, the "water crop" that was formerly available from that land is
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reduced to the extent of the amount of water drained off to the sea. Furthermore,
draining the swamps dries out the formerly wet soils thus permitting the'devastat-
ing forest fires to destroy the swamp lands, their organic soils, and the flora
and fauna of the swamps that made them so aesthetically pleasing in the first place.
The current fires that are devastating the Big Cypress Swamp and adjacent parts of
the Everglades are a horrible example of this.
Thus, in draining the wetlands, we are not only experiencing reduction of the
water crop but the exploding population is demanding more and more water which
further diminishes it. Whereas a generation or so ago the normal city or suburban.
family got by on perhaps 50 to 75 gpcd (gallons per capital per day), they now use
about 150 to 250 gpcd. Whereas previously home owners and cities along the coast-
lines of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico could develop fresh-water
supplies from wells down to the very shoreline, this is in most places no longer
possible. The plethora of drainage canals, pleasure-boat canals and deeply-dredged
natural channels and marinas for shipping purposes, have so lowered water-levels in
the coastal areas that nature's long-established equilibrium between salt and fresh
water has become unbalanced, and Nature, in her inexorable and implacable manner,
'moves salt water inland to restore the balance -- but this time at some distance
farther inland than the original position. Thus it is that most of the Gold Coast
of southeastern Florida and much of the Sun Coast of southwestern Florida is suffer-
ing salt-water encroachment. This has resulted in the ruination of thousands of
privately owned wells all along both coasts, plus the loss of municipal well fields
of such cities as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on the Atlantic Coast and Tampa and St.
Petersburg on the Gulf Coast, to name only a few.
Losing the capability to produce fresh water in the salt-water encroachment
zones of the coastal areas, the coastal cities have opted to develop new well fields
at some "safe" distance inland. When they do this they generally purchase a rural
site of, say, about one square mile, and then proceed to develop as much water as
they need from that field. If drawdowns of the cone-of-depression in and around
the new well field eventually become too great, or the adjacent landowners seek
relief from interference with water levels in their own wells or lakes, the
practice has been simply to reduce pumpage in the old well field and develop a
new one, similar to the old one, a few miles away.
This system worked reasonably well in the past but is now in deep trouble,
especially in the rapidly urbanizing areas of the State. This follows because
such well fields produce far more water than Nature supplies on the land within
the boundaries of the well field. For instance, a city may own a well field of
one square mile and pump it at a rate of 30 mgd (million gallons a day). Over
much of the central and northern parts of the District Nature's long-term average
recharge from precipitation is only about 650,000 to 750,000 gpd/mi2 (gallons per
day per square mile). Thus, if the city owning the land took only the amount of
water actually recharged in the land it owns and not infringe on such recharge on
adjacent property, the city could not produce even one mgd (million gallons a day)
from its one-square-mile property. Instead it would have to buy an additional 40
to 46 square miles to produce the 30 mgd needed.
But the fact is that a large number of well fields of such size and capacity
are already in operation in Florida, each taking many times the amount of water
that the well-field opponents consider to be their "fair share" of the local, avail-
able water. Would the courts ever be likely to restrict such one-square-mile well
fields to their-annual one-square-mile water crop and thus cut off nearly 200,000
of-the cities' water customers (200,000 customers x 150 gpcd =30 mgd) from their
water supply? Further, the investment of the city and its citizens in the land,
wells, well-pumps, pipelines, etc., running to perhaps $20 million or more per well
field, must be considered. My own opinion is that no court is going to close such a
well field down. Some other way must be found to supply the owners of the adjacent
lands whose water crop has been appropriated by the city.
The same may be said of any other large water development, such as the big
wells in use by industry and agriculture. Many such big wells that supply water
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either to irrigate citrus groves or to process citrus fruit, or the big wells
that supply the phosphate industry for the mining and processing of the ore,
or the big pumps used by the rock-mining companies to dewater their mine pits
each produce 5,000 to 8,000 gpm or 7.2 to 11.5 mgd. A single well located on.a
small city lot producing 5,000 gpm, in an area where the average annual recharge
per day per square mile is 650,000 gallons, thus preempts the water crop from an
area of about 11 square miles!
The legislature and the courts of Florida have not yet addressed themselves
to this problem and until they do there is little likelihood that a workable
answer can be found to the problem that we are considering here.
As the District has been operating, we have permitted no new large water
supplies to be developed unless the proposed site is in a remote and generally
undeveloped area where ample, unused recharge is occurring to supply the proposed
new water supply facility, or where excess flood-flow waters can be captured from
streams or swamps that otherwise would waste the flow to the sea or uselessly eva-
porate it into the air. Such areas, for example, would be the 870-square mile
"Green Swamp, or the Cypress Creek area of Pasco County, which is a part of the
130-square mile Pasco High; or the recently permitted diversion of water from
the Little Manatee River to supply water for a large, new, electrical generating
With regard to using the water supply per se as a-means of limiting population,
as seems to be a current popular idea, I know of no place in the country where this
means has been successfully applied. Some other means of control, such as limit-
ing the size of land parcels that may be sold, or the prevention of use of septic
tanks or privies in new developments, or the limiting of numbers of people per
acre or per square mile, must be found.
People will move wherever they choose to live and have the means of so doing.
When they congregate in-areas lacking a local water supply to support their numbers,
government or private enterprise finds or develops the water needed. Well-known
examples are such cities as Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles,
Phoenix, Denver and many others, some of which have developed water-import systems
costing billions of dollars and pipelines exceeding 400 miles in length. The same
will be done here, eventually, and we can probably look forward to the tapping of
such large fresh-water sources of the water-rich Florida Panhandle as the Apalachi-
cola River (average flow of about 14,130 mgd= 14.13 bgd) and the Suwannee River
(average flow of about 6,734 mgd= 6.73 bgd). Together these two streams would
supply, taking only one-third of their average annual flow at their downstream
ends, a total of nearly 7 bgd (billion gallons a day). Considering that our over-
all average water use here in Florida (including industrial and agricultural uses)
is estimated at about 1,000 gpcd (national use in 1970 is 1,800 gpcd according to
the USGS), this would provide enough water for an additional 7 million people, or
nearly double the present population.
This is not a short and easy answer to the question regarding getting our
"fair share" of the water remaining to be developed. However, the question posed
*has no quick, easy answer. But in summary, I see no way to use water as such as
a means of controlling population. I haven't even mentioned reuse of water as a
means of augmenting the water crop in Florida, or the desalination of coastal
brackish ground water (previous Hydroscope issues have covered these items). But
these are means of greatly extending the water crop, and already they are being
used on a limited scale. I look for these means to be greatly expanded in the
next few years. Finally, the legislature and the courts must tackle the water-
law enigmas and contradictions of this State. Such a new-water law should cover
both ground water and surface water in accordance with sound hydrologic principles
now well understood by scientists, and probably adopting basically the philosophy
of prior-appropriation rights with reasonable and beneficial-use stipulations
GARALD G. PARKER, C.P.G.
SENIOR SCIENTIST AND