Governor's Water Resource Commission Report Summary
In April 1989 Governor Bob Martinez signed Executive Order 89-74
(Appendix A) creating the Governor's Water Resource Commission
and directing it to analyze the current state of Florida's water
resources. To accomplish this task, the Commission was asked to
assess the quantity of water available in Florida, its continued
viability as a source of drinking water and steps necessary to
ensure its continued use by all Floridians. As part of this
assessment, the Commission was to determine if current statutory
environmental safeguards are adequate to protect the state's
aquifers. The Commission was made up of two board members from
each of the five water management districts, including the
Chairman of each Board. A report of the Commission's findings,
including any proposed legislative initiatives necessary to
protect Florida's resources, was to be provided to the Governor
by December 1, 1989.
OVERVIEW OF WATER RESOURCES
Florida has extensive surface and ground water resources. These
water resources are replenished primarily by the state's abundant
rainfall, which averages 53 inches a year statewide. Although
most of the rainfall (32-47 inches) is lost to
evapotranspiration, 0-20 inches a year infiltrates the soil to
recharge ground water and an average of 14 inches a year runs off
into surface waters.
Florida has more than 1,700 streams, over 7,700 freshwater lakes
and reservoirs, and abundant wetland systems. In 1985,
freshwater withdrawals from surface water totaled 2,230 million
gallons a day or about one-third of the freshwater used in the
state. Florida's surface waters support a variety of fish and
wildlife. Stormwater runoff from urban and rural areas,
including streets, roads, parking lots, construction sites,
agricultural fields and lawns is the single largest source of
pollution threatening the health of Florida's surface water
Florida also contains abundant ground water resources. Large
quantities of water are obtainable from the aquifers in most
areas of the state. Because of its abundance, availability and
consistent quality, ground water is the principal source of
freshwater for public supply, irrigation, rural domestic and
industrial/commercial use. More than 90 percent of Florida's
population depends on ground water for its drinking water. In
addition to its direct use, ground water is the source of water
for the state's spring flow and base flow of streams; ground
water flow also maintains the water level in most of the state's
Ground water in Florida is particularly vulnerable to
contamination. Florida is covered nearly everywhere by a thin
layer of surficial sands that overlie a thick sequence of
limestone and dolomite. Depth to ground water throughout the
state is relatively shallow; anywhere from 0-100 feet with 10-20
feet being most common. Even though ground water is taken from
deeper aquifers for many uses, the combination of relatively
shallow ground water covered by permeable sands makes ground
water supplies in Florida particularly vulnerable to
contamination from surface discharges.
Water Resource Statutes and Requlatory Agencies
Requirements for land and water use planning at the local,
regional, and state level are contained in Florida Statutes
Chapters 163, 186, 187, and 373. Included in these statutes are
the Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Land Development
Regulation Act, the State Comprehensive Plan and, the State Water
Use Plan. Chapter 373, the Florida Water Resource Act, deals
with all water resources issues including water supply, flood
control, water quality protection and environmental
considerations; and authorizes formation of the five water
management districts. The prevention of pollution discharges and
the cleanup and restoration of water resources damaged by
hazardous wastes, petroleum products, and other pollutants is
addressed by Chapter 376 and is administered by the Department of
Environmental Regulation. Chapter 403 authorizes the Department
of Environmental Regulation to prevent, control, and abate
pollution of the waters of the State.
Regulation of the quality and quantity of water in Florida is
through the Department of Environmental Regulation and the five
water management districts. The Florida Water Resources Act
gives the Department of Environmental Regulation general
supervisory authority over the water management districts and
directs the Department of Environmental Regulation to delegate
water resource programs to them. The five water management
districts are: Northwest Florida, Suwannee River, St. Johns
River, South Florida, and Southwest Florida water management
districts. The water management districts are authorized to
implement flood protection programs, perform technical
investigations, develop water resource plans--including water
shortage plans for times of drought--and to acquire and manage
lands for water management purposes. They administer major
regulatory programs, including surface water management,
consumptive uses of water, aquifer recharge, and well
construction. Funding for water management districts is
primarily through ad valorem taxes.
Water Resource Problems
Even though Florida is blessed with abundant water resources, a
major water use problem results from the fact that the population
is not distributed in the same areas as the most available
freshwater supplies. Today, much of north Florida is a water
surplus area while most of the State's population is located in
major urban areas such as Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach,
Tampa, and St. Petersburg along the southern coasts.
Approximately 80 percent of the State's population lives in
coastal areas. Local freshwater supplies may be inadequate to
readily meet the competing needs of agriculture, industry, and
public supply in these populated regions, leading to demands for
advanced treatment technology such as reverse osmosis, or
importation of water. In addition, because most water supplies
in Florida are dependent on rainfall for replenishment, seasonal
weather patterns can impact water availability. To emphasize
this situation during 1989 the South Florida, Southwest Florida,
and St. Johns River water management districts all imposed some
form of water use restrictions. Overpumpage of water from
underlying aquifers can result in salt water intrusion and an
associated increase in the cost of treatment of water from these
aquifers, while transportation of water from remote areas where
water is more abundant can be expensive and politically
A second major water resource concern in Florida is the lack of a
comprehensive, integrated planning process that joins land and
water use planning for the entire State. Consumptive uses of
water are regulated by the five water management districts, a
system which recognizes regional differences in water needs and
resources in different regions of the State. As required by the
State Water Policy (Chapter 17-40, Florida Administrative Code)
the water management districts are engaged in regional water use
planning to identify water needs and sources within their
districts. At the same time, all cities and counties are
required by the Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Land
Development Regulation Act of 1986 to plan for their future water
and land use. The result is that water and land use planning
efforts have not been well integrated. There needs to be a well
defined procedure or requirement to coordinate water use planning
at all levels of government, and to closely join this critical
resource issue to planning for growth through land use planning.
There is a clear need to improve coordination between levels of
government, and between land and water use planning to assure
adequate water supplies for Florida's future.
Compounding the problems of unequal population and water supply
distribution, and the lack of integrated water and land use
planning, is the State's population growth. In the five years
between 1982 and 1987, the population of Florida grew 16.1
percent from 10.4 to 12.0 million. The population is
expected to grow by 12.3 percent in the five years between 1987
and 1992 to 13.5 million, and 9.2 percent to 14.7 million by
1997. This continuing growth increases demands on the use of the
State's water resources and compounds existing water use
problems. In responding to these identified water resource
problems, it is evident that controlling the influx of new
residents and determining where they are to live are not viable
solutions. Florida is going to continue to grow and people will
continue to locate predominately along the coast in the southern
part of the State.
Recognizing this, the Commission focused its recommendations on
those areas it believes complement existing, well developed
regulatory and planning tools. While the State does have
abundant water for future generations, the Commission found that
assuring the continued viability of these water resources will
require significant new links between land and water use
planning, an increased emphasis on maximizing the efficient use
of locally available resources, and innovative funding to support
water resource programs.
Water Supply Planning
Integrate water and land use planning in the state. This
integration should continue through the state, regional (water
management district, regional planning council, and regional
water supply authority) and local governments (municipal and
county) levels. Planning should be consistent throughout all
levels of government.
Require water management districts to complete District Water
Management Plans by 1994, including "needs and sources"
assessments by July 1, 1991. These assessments, presently
under development, should be phased by region and coordinated
for consistency between the water management districts and the
Department. All needs and all sources should be included.
Water related elements of local government comprehensive plans
and Comprehensive Regional Policy Plans should be consistent
with District Water Management Plans.
Utilize the statewide ground water quality monitoring network
data in water use planning. Continue efforts to optimize
network design and data enhancement.
Require local governments to rely on the water management
district's needs and sources assessments to assure water
availability prior to land use commitment. Require water use
permits to be consistent with the needs and sources
Encourage sound utilization of local and regional water
supplies, by specifying in the State Comprehensive Plan and
State Water Management Plan that local and regional water
supplies should be developed prior to importation.
Authorize area-wide water supply authorities to meet water
needs in critical water supply problem areas. The Legislature
should authorize the mandated formation of area-wide water
supply authorities by the water management district in
critical water supply problem areas where necessary to meet
water needs. The water management district should provide
start-up funding or propose funding sources. Local
governments should be allowed time to voluntarily form
area-wide water supply authorities before formation by the
water management districts.
Require local governments by statute to implement wellhead
protection programs for public water supply wells following
state guidelines as they become available. The state should
develop and make available to local governments a model
wellhead protection program, establishing program elements,
and provide assistance. Adequate safeguards should be
included in the Local Government Comprehensive Planning Act to
protect Class I surface waters.
Encourage the Governor to enter into an interstate
environmental control compact (Chapter 403.60, F.S.) with
Alabama and Georgia to protect the quality and quantity of
shared water resources.
Critical Water Suonlv Problem Areas
Include the following considerations in the designation of
critical water supply problem areas by the water management
districts. These considerations are in addition to existing
regulations but are not limiting.
Demonstration of long-term environmental degradation
due to water resource limitations; or
Stress upon local supplies thus requiring the use of
reverse osmosis, desalination, water reclamation or
other appropriate technologies to meet needs; or
Existing or projected need for importation of water.
Require development of criteria by the Department of
Environmental Regulation and the water management districts
for evaluating the use of reverse osmosis, desalination, or
other appropriate technologies within critical water supply
problem areas in preference to importation of water.
Encourage water suppliers that have access to water
resources that exceed their planned needs and do not exceed
the water use permitting criteria for the area, to develop
and distribute these resources to areas with critical water
needs which have effectively maximized the use of local
Require, or continue to require, the following practices in
critical water supply problem areas:
Monitoring of major users.
Water reclamation and conservation measures such as
Denying access to imported water supplies or
additional use of local ground or surface water
resources when suitable reclaimed water is
Lowering of water use permit thresholds in critical
water supply problem areas.
Designating the source for specific use(s) or users
or otherwise limiting uses from that source in
critical water supply problem areas.
Educate all water users of the state about the fragile
nature of Florida's water resources. Discourage wasteful
practices and encourage water conservation. Continue and
improve water resource education in the schools.
Promote water conservation by restricting statewide, lawn
irrigation during peak daylight hours. Maximize use of
reclaimed water for lawn irrigation.
Require the Public Service Commission and other rate
setting bodies to set water rates in a manner that will
encourage water conservation.
Set reclaimed water rates and distribute water reclamation
costs in a manner to encourage reuse.
Raise the funding capability for the Northwest Florida
Water Management District to 1 mill of ad valorem tax
within the State Constitution.
Collect a fee from all users based on water used. Credits
shall be given for aquifer recharge, use of reclaimed
water, reverse osmosis, desalination, or other alternative
technologies. Funds shall be accrued in a water resource
trust fund to be used for the following purposes:
Alternative sources development (reverse osmosis,
reclamation, conservation, etc.) within critical
water supply problem areas.
Promotion of area-wide water supply authorities and
reuse systems through planning studies, start-up
funding, or low interest rate loans.
Resource protection activities, such as wellhead
protection and recharge area protection. Priority
for funding should be given first to resource
protection activities in "donor" water supply areas
and second to the recipient critical water supply
Water quality testing mandated for public water
Infrastructure improvement or regionalization.
Incentives for conservation by all users.