| Material Information
||State Needs New Approaches for Dealing with Water Crisis
||The Tampa Tribune, Wednesday, March 13, 1991
||North America -- United States of America -- Florida
||Jake Varn Collection - State Needs New Approaches for Dealing with Water Crisis (JDV Box 89)
||Box 19, Folder 7 ( Florida's Water Wars - 1991 ), Item 3
||Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
State needs new approaches
for dealing with water crisis
The drought worsens. Water districts ratchet
down water restrictions. Hillsborough and Pinel-
las student groups can't even hold car washes.
Yet new construction continues and is considered
for placement in such vital watersheds as the
t Green Swamp.
0 o1 Is it any wonder residents are disenchanted
with the state's water-management policies?
S From all appearances, Florida's supply of pota-
S ble water is exhausted.
CO A six-month investigation of the state's five
-:2 water districts by the 10 Florida newspapers of
>", the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group
accentuates that impression. Among their find-
U Each district manages the water within its
borders and operates with little regard for the
concerns of surrounding regions or overall state
Special interests control districts' governing
.-- boards. Investigators found that 38 (80 percent)
S of the 47 board members appointed from 1987
E through 1990 by former Governor Bob Martinez
had financial ties to agriculture and development
the industries most affected by water district
Board members were selected more on the
basis of politics than expertise. More than two--
thirds of the 47 board members appointed by
Martinez were Republicans. Many contributed to
his two gubernatorial campaigns.
The state exercised little control over the
Much district spending appears excessive.
Among the examples: multimillion-dollar public
relations staffs and opulent headquarters build-
ings. The St. Johns River district bought a
$575,000 airplane. The South Florida Water Man-
agement District built a $17.5 million, 150,000-
square-foot office building in West Palm Beach
that includes $350,000 worth of new audio-visual
equipment. Florida TaxWatch Inc. found the five
districts grew an astounding average of 28 per-
cent a year from 1982 to 1988.
The solution? According to hydrologists inter:-
viewed by investigators: State control of water..
Namely, a new state water authority.
They're half right. The regional, fragmented
approach to water management is faulty. But
would an all-powerful water czar, imposing poli-
cies on communities from the lofty heights of
Tallahassee, be more effective?
The district boards are stacked with agricul-
tural and development interests. That should
change. But does anybody think that special in-
terests won't exert pressure at the state level?
And does anybody think growers and builders
shouldn't have a say?
What's needed is not so much state control as
The state role should be devoted to monitor-
ing district spending and, even more important,
helping formulate a long-term water strategy for
Florida. This doesn't require another agency.
The governor's office or perhaps the Depart-
ment of Community Affairs could handle the
A forum must be established that would re-
quire collaboration among the districts. For in-
stance, a popular proposal among parched South
Florida communities is to pipe water down from
North Florida springs and rivers. But no one real-
ly knows if it's economically or environmentally
feasible. No agency's ever conducted a compre-
Florida is, as famed water authority Garald G.
Parker pointed out, a "hydrological island" -
totally dependent on rainfall. It possesses a re-
markably efficient water-storage system. Rain is
filtered through sand and stored in underground
caverns, fresh, clean and cold for drinking.
But population growth is destroying the sys-
tem even as it creates greater water demands.
Daunting questions arise. Should a county that
has paved over its aquifer be allowed to import
water from a county that's safeguarded its re-
sources? Should water-rich counties be compen-
sated for not allowing development? What should
be done when county officials knowingly permit
development to outstrip water supply?
Preoccupied with parochial needs, the dis-
tricts won't tackle such matters without a push.
The state should furnish the push and the
goals. But the nuts and bolts of water manage-
ment are probably best left to water districts.
Better to remedy their failings than do away with.
the districts themselves. There's no time to lose.
The water crisis worsens day by day.