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DECIDING WHO GETS WHAT
AND FROM WHERE -
THE WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICTS' PERSPECTIVE
Florida's water management districts are given the exclusive
statuatort authority for "requiring permits for the consumptive
use of water and the transportation thereof." Section 373.2L7,
F.S. Thi same statutory provision effectively precludes local
governments from enacting or enforcing any law, ordinance or ru.ln
which conflicts with the Districts' authority over this process.
(See also Section 373.223(2)F.S.). As coastal communities on both
sides of lorida push further and further inland for water
supplies ew battle lines are being drawn over water resources.
Although he focus a few years ago was on interdistrict transfers
of water, the battlefront has shifted recently to both inter, and
intra county battles over water usually pitting a coastal urban
area agai st an inland rural area.
The water management districts have heretofore been primarily
in a reactive posture as these conflicts have been nlaved out.
They have approved or denied permit applications as presented by
purveyors of water. This posture has, however changed due to
changes ir recent events, rules, policies and legislation. This
outline d scusses the permitting issue in this area as well as Lhe
new projects under way to match water needs with water sources.
Any proposed use of water must meet the following
requirements before a permit therefore may be issued:
in a basin
It must be a reasonable beneficial use of water;
the use must not interfere with any presentLy existing
legal use of water; and
[t must be consistent with the public interest.
questions arise, sometimes a political nature,
relating to resource issues, when the water source lies
,watershed, county or district other than that where
Ls to be used.
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A. INTERDISTRICT TRANSFERS OF WATER
Although, the authority of the water management districts to
transfer water across district boundary lines has arguably always
existed in Chapter 373 (See Subsection 373.223(2) F.S.), this
authority as recognized and confirmed by the courts in 1987.
Osceola Co'nty v. St. Johns River Water Management DistrLict, 504
So.2d. 385 (rFa. 1987). Although general policy guidance existed
in Section 17-40.402, F.A.C. (State Water Policy) as early as
1981, the Legislature enacted additional, statutory gniidelines in
1987 follow ing the Osceola County decision.
The etatuatory provision, which appears at Section 373.2295
F.S. defines an interdistrict transfer as "withdrawal of
groundwate from a point within one water management district for
use outside the boundaries of that district." Application .is imarle
to the district from which the water will be withdrawn. The oily
new statutory permitting criteria appears in subsection (4) which
This is a
termining if an application is consistent
the public interest as required by s. 373.
the projected populations, as contained in the
e land use elements of the comprehensive plans
ed pursuant to Chapter 163 by the local
nments within which the withdrawal areas 'are
ed will be considered together with other,
nce presented on future needs of those areas.
e proposed interdistrict transfer of
water meets the requirements of this chapter,
f the needs'of the area where the use will
and the specific area from which the
water will be withdrawn can be satisfied, the
t for the interdistrict transfer shall be
e clearly expresses an intent th.at. localJ gove rtiments not.
in any way with this procedure. This statute C(uthei:
hat if a local government denies a rezoning request for
r production, treatment, or transmission facilities
an interdistrict transfer of water the denial may be
n the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission
ich has the authority to modify such land use decisions.
remedy which is not available for land use decisions
inter-county or intra-county transfers of water.
B. INTER-COUNTY TRANSFERS
cations for transfers of water over or between two or
ies within the same water management district are
uch transfers have existed in various parts of Florida
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for many years. As water supplies become more scarce, however, we.
Shave seen -nd will continue to see battles between counties over
water supplies. As mentioned above, Section 373.223 F.S.
contemplate a district authorization of transfers of water across
county boundaries. Counties and municipalities still have the
authority 'o make land use decisions relating to wellfields and
transmission facility sites which presents the possibility'of
.conflict b tween water management district and county zoning
Of th five water management districts only one has
permitting criteria which would arguably treat inter county
transfers ny differently than ordinary consumptive use
permits (CUP). Subsection 40C-2.301(1)(j), F.A.C., of SWFMD's CUP
rule requi es as a condition for issuance of a permit that the
applicant 'utilize local water resources to the greatest extent
practicable." The Governor's Water Resource Commni.ssion Final
Report, issued December 1, 1989 includes among its recommendaLions
that's local water supplies should receive first
considerate on for utilization, including conservation,
reclamation, reverse osmosis, and other alternative technologies,
'before wator is' imported.
.within a c(
use but st
None of th
C. INTRA-COUNTY TRANSFERS
isues which arise when intra-county transfers become
:e quite similar to those which arise over
r transfers. The players are different, however.
>unty the battle generally involves municipnli.y vs.
;y, utility vs. utility or urban use vs. agricultural
L11 usually involves a coastal area vs. an inland area.
!r than the SWFWMD criteria mentioned above, none of the
cement districts apply any special criteria for
)f water from one part of a county to another. The
Commission recommendations mentioned above, if
i, would also apply to intra-county transfers of water.
D. Competing Applications
:ious consumers and purveyors of water compete [for and
"bank" water resources for the future there will..
be competing applications for water.f rom the same
There competing application conflict, section 373.233
Sthe governing boards of the districts to "approve or
application which best serves the public interest."
* water management districts have rule criteria which
the public interest is to be determined in this
II. GETTING A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT'S
NEEDED AND WHAT'S AVAILABLE
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Section 17-40.501, F.A.C. requires that each of the water
management districts prepare a water management plan which is Lo
include an "assessment of water needs and sources for the next 20
years'." E ch of the water management districts is presently
engaged Lin this process. The plans must be completed by 11/1/94.
In addition the Districts are required to identify specificc
geographic areas that have become critical or are anticipaLed to
become critical within the next 20 years." These areas are also
then to be designated by rule no later than November 1, 1991.
This design action will have implications for consumptive use permit
applicants in those areas.
Recent statutory enactments also .required the water
management districts to provide technical assistance to local
governments. The information and planning generated by all of
the requirements mentioned herein will, for the future enable the
districts |to respond to these water skirmishes in more of an
active role rather than a reactive role. While this will not, put,
an end to the battles perhaps it will enable he decision miakiri s Li
be in a better position to make peace among the warring camps.