The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
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site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Florida's "WTater R1iglx
Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of
SUMMARY GUIDE TO FLORIDA'S WATER RIGHTS
This document is not a substitute for competent legal advice if you
encounter problems involving water rights. Its purpose is to inform
farmers and other land owners about the general characteristics of
Florida's water law. It presents in summary form a description of the
legal structure involved in the acquisition and preservation of water
rights and of the substantive content of those rights.
A SUMMARY GUIDE TO FLORIDA'S WATER RIGHTS
James B. Wadley1
PART I INTRODUCTION
A. Who "owns" water in Florida?
The ancient Romans placed water in the category of things that no
one could own, things that all could share. Since Roman times, society
has recognized the need to protect certain categories of users of water,
even at the risk of making it unavailable to the community as a whole.
This has been done in many ways. The system adopted in Florida gives
protected users only a right to use water. They are not owners of
water even though it may flow under or through their land. Use rights
are recognized and protected by law; they are created by law. As such,
they may be changed from time to time, if the modifications are
B. What is the nature of this use right?
In Florida until quite recently the right to use water and the
protection afforded users depended upon whether the water was on the
surface or underground and upon the use to be made of the water. For
surface water, the right to use water was recognized and protected so
long as you were a "riparian" owner (that is, owned land immediately
bordering on the body of water), were going to use the water on riparian
land (again, land bordering on the water), were going to make a
IDirector, Center for Land Use Law, College of Law, University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida. James B. Barnes, Donald Wilson, Thomas Farkashand
George Russ, law students, helped with the research required to write
this report. This work was done under a cooperative arrangement with
the Center for Rural Development, IFAS.
"reasonable" use of the water, and did not unreasonably interfere with
other riparian owners to the same water. For ground water, a right was
recognized and protected only so long as the use to be made of the water
was reasonable and beneficial with respect to the use of the land and so
long as no unreasonable interference with neighboring users was caused.
In neither case were Florida water users given an unlimited right to
extract, divert or appropriate surface water for their own use.
In 1972 the State adopted the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972
which redefined the protected categories of users and the nature of the
uses permitted as a part of the exercise of one's right. Under the
provision of this act, a permit must be secured for diversion, withdrawal,
impoundment or consumptive use of water. To secure a permit, you must
establish that the proposed use:
1. is a reasonable-beneficial use
2. will not interfere with any presently existing legal
use of water
3. is consistent with the public interest.
You do not need a permit if the only use is individual domestic consumption.
C. Are any rights unaffected by the recent statute?
Nonconsumptive uses of water under the common law were those that
neither reduced the quantity nor diminished the quality of the water used.
Most nonconsumptive uses are unaffected by the new statute. The extent
of any right to make nonconsumptive uses of water (as well as consumptive
uses) has depended on whether the body of water was navigable or
nonnavigable whether you owned land on or under the water, and whether
you were exercising rights claimed as a member of the public generally
or were asserting private rights. To a limited extent, as least with
respect to nonconsumptive uses, the ownership requirement still prevails.
These rights carried over from the common law, as well as those
created and modified by the recent legislation will be discussed in
greater detail in the sections that follow. They include such rights
as passage, access, boating, wharfing, fishing and view.
PART II NONSTATUTORY WATER RIGHTS IN FLORIDA
A. What is a Riparian right?
Technically, riparian rights exist only with respect to watercourses
rather than all bodies of water. Traditionally, they are associated with
surface waters rather than ground waters. However, the term has been
used very loosely in our system, and such loose use has resulted in much
confusion. From this point on, we will use the term only to describe
rights relating to "navigable" waterbodies. Rights in nonnavigable
waterbodies or in groundwater will not be referred to as riparian rights.
Nor will we call riparian those rights that must be acquired and
perfected by getting a permit, because riparian rights traditionally
came about by owning land on the bank of a stream and without any need
for further action by the landowner. Today, even if you own land on a
navigable stream, not all of your rights can properly be called "riparian
rights" because, under the recent statute, you must do something (get a
permit) to acquire and to exercise certain rights to use water.
As we have defined the term, only the following "riparian" rights
remain unchanged by the effects of the 1972 statute: access, boating,
bathing, fishing, ingress, egress, wharfing and view.
B. How do you acquire "riparian" rights?
You acquire riparian rights (those riparian rights remaining after
the 1972 statute) by ownership of land abutting on certain waters. If
you own land immediately bordering on a NATURAL NAVIGABLE WATERCOURSE or
WATERBODY, the above named riparian rights automatically belong to you.
C. What is a NATURAL watercourse or waterbody?
The difference between a river, tributary, creek, stream or ditch
is largely one of degree measured by the size, length and breadth of the
watercourse in question. They may all be brought under the definition of
a watercourse if they consist of a channel, with banks, bed and running
water. It is not necessary that the water flow constantly, uniformly or
uninterruptedly. If the other elements exist, a stream will not lose its
character or cease to be a natural watercourse simply because in time of
drought the flow may be diminished or temporarily suspended. All that
is necessary is that it is usually a stream of running water.
The term lake or pond generally refers to a reasonably permanent
inland body of water substantially at rest in a depression in the land.
A lake or pond is distinguished from a water course primarily by the
former's lack of a regularly flowing current of water. Size alone
distinguishes a pond from a lake, but the terms are unimportant; for
legal purposes, they are treated equally.
Man-made ponds, lakes, streams and waterways are not considered
natural watercourses or waterbodies. Nor is general run-off (called
diffused surface water) to be considered in the same category as natural
watercourses or waterbodies even though land owners do have certain
rights with respect to this type of water. These rights will be discussed
D. What is a natural NAVIGABLE watercourse or waterbody?
Navigable waters are those that, by virtue of their size, depth
or other conditions are in fact capable of navigation or which flow or
are evolved from such sources for useful public purposes. The factor
that determines whether or not water is navigable is its capacity for
navigation and not necessarily actual use for that purpose. This
determination is a question of fact to be established case by case.
The critical date for ascertaining whether the watercourse or waterbody
is navigable is the time of statehood. It is immaterial that the
waterbody or watercourse is not presently used for commerce or that it has
not been so used for many years so long as it was used or susceptible for
use at the time the state was admitted to the Union. Moreover, once a
body of water is established as "navigable" it does not lose that
distinction even though man-made dams or other changes make it unfit for
navigation. This distinction is important to the determination of
ownership of land covered by the water as well as the determination of
Nonnavigable waterbodies and watercourses are subject to private
ownership. No riparian rights exist in such waters. Instead, another
set of rights and correlative duties are present. If, however, the
waters are navigable, riparian rights exist and the public generally is
entitled to certain additional rights that must be respected even by
the riparian owner.
All navigable waters are held by the state for the benefit of the
whole people. The owner of the land abutting on the navigable waters
has no exclusive right in the water or land below ordinary high water
mark. Indeed, the state, upon admission to the Union, by virtue of its
sovereignty assumed title to and authority over the beds underlying
navigable waters in the state. The state's powers are limited to be
sure by the power of the federal government to regulate commerce but
nevertheless are real and may be exercised in the interest of the public.
Artifically created, or man-made watercourses or waterbodies are
generally not considered to be navigable even though they are in fact
used for navigation or commerce. In other states, if a man-made channel
is constructed with the intention of being used permanently, and has been
used consistently for this prupose for a considerable time, it may
acquire the attributes of a natural navigable watercourse. Florida has
not yet taken such a position. Florida does, however, allow the public
to acquire rights in nonnavigable watercourses based on land and
continuous use, but the time period of such use is considerable and
generally must be uninterrupted.
If the watercourse or waterbody is naturally nonnavigable such
man-made improvements as dredging and filling will not result in the
creation of a navigable waterbody. The beds under the waters remain in
private hands and no riparian rights or rights in the public generally
will be created. An exception to this rule may be found where the state
acquires the underlying land and then does the improvement.
The creation and use of any artificial watercourse such as a canal
which empties into or diverts water from another waterway by itself will
not be sufficient to generate riparian rights. However, it would probably
come under the jurisdiction of the recent statute such as to require
permits for those types of uses that are covered by the statute.
For riparian rights to exist, ownership must extend to the ordinary
high water mark of navigable waters. The ordinary high water mark must
be the boundary of the land. Without such a boundary the owner will not
have riparian rights.
E. What is the extent of riparian rights?
By law, a riparian owner (even after the 1972 statute) has the
rights of ingress, egress, boating, bathing, and fishing and whatever
theirr rights as may be or have been defined by law. Case law provides
that the riparian has the right to erect on the bed and shore adjacent
to his riparian holdings bath houses, wharves, or other structures needed
to facilitate his business or pleasure.
Riparian rights are not exclusive and the riparian owner may not
monopolize navigation or commerce or unreasonably burden the navigation
or commerce of others. The determination of whether there has been an
interference with the rights of others is a fact question to be resolved
according to the circumstances of each case. Factors that have frequently
been considered in determining whether a particular project causes
unreasonable interference include the size of the waterbody, size of the
proposed development, its extension from the shore, and the nature and
intensity of other existing uses. A riparian owner should consider as
well the possibility that his occupation of a part of the surface of the
water might block from use other portions of the same waterbody.
A riparian cannot construct buildings on his land that block the
view of other owners. Although the riparian owner enjoys the right to an
unobstructed view over the waters, this right appears to mean only a view
as opposed to the best possible view. Some reasonable interference of
view is likely to be tolerated.
Riparian rights are considered property rights of the riparian land
owner. If they are taken by governmental action--either through the
exercise of the power of eminent domain or through unreasonable, arbitrary
and confiscatory regulation--compensation will be owed to the riparian owner.
Regulation is tolerated, however, where there is an overriding state
interest in keeping the channel open and a state responsibility for insuring
that the riparian owner does not invade public rights without a legal basis.
Thus, a permit is generally required for any construction in or over
navigable waters and for any dredging and filling activity that may occur
in the navigable waters even if it is associated with the exercise of a
F. What rights does the general public have in natural navigable
watercourses or waterbodies?
If the waters are navigable such that the beds under the water are
state owned, certain rights belong to the public in general. First, the
public is entitled to ingress and egress and a limited right of view.
In addition, the public is given the right to navigate the waters once
lawful access has been gained. The public does not have the right to
trespass private property to gain access, however.
In Florida, the public has the right of passage along the shore
below the ordinary high water mark. The riparian owner owns only to the
ordinary high water mark; from that point landward, he is in full control.
The public right cannot be interfered with unreasonably by the
riparian owner, even in an attempt to exercise other riparian rights.
For example, a riparian owner might not be able to build a particular
kind of wharf if it would unreasonably prevent the public from exercising
their right of passage along the shore.
Several other rights need to be mentioned. One is that of boating
on natural navigable water. This right extends to both commercial
and recreational boating. It would also appear to extend to towing
water skiers. However, the exercise of this right must not interfere
with the exercise of riparian rights and might be abated as a private
nuisance should it cause such interference. On the other hand, the
riparian owner would not be allowed to unreasonably obstruct the public
in the enjoyment of this right.
Similar to boating are the rights of fishing and swimming. Although
the public would not have access to a riparian owner's private pier for
the purposes of fishing or swimming, the public could object if the
owner attempted to withdraw from possible public access a portion of a
navigable waterbody by constructing a pier or other structure. As with
other rights of this nature, the state may reasonably restrict their
exercise and, for example, may lawfully do so be requiring a permit to
fish or by imposing a limit on the number of fish caught.
G. What rights does an owner of land abutting on nonnavigable
Nonnavigable lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers are subject to
private ownership. The state has declared by statute that lakes conveyed
to private individuals by the United States or by the State of Florida
prior to 1953 would be considered nonnavigable. Otherwise, to be
considered nonnavigable the body of water must fail to meet the test of
navigability as outlined above.
Rights to the use of nonnavigable waters depend on ownership of
land on the banks of the water and on whether there are other similar
owners. When all the land surrounding an inland, nonnavigable lake
belongs to a single property owner, the lake for all intents and purposes
is considered private property and no one has a right to make any use of the
water other than the owner of the surrounding land. Even if the lake is
large and potentially useful to the public at large for recreational use,
the public cannot condemn a right to access to the lake, nor use the
water of the lake.
If, on the other hand, there is more than one owner of land
adjacent to the nonnavigable lake, no one owner has exclusive control
over even the portion of the bed he owns (however large that portion
might be), and he must pay due regard to the lawful rights of any
other adjoining owner. The rights of all such owners are equal regardless
of the portion of the bed actually owned by each one individually. The
use of each is permitted only so long as it is reasonable and does not
unreasonably interfere with the rights of the other adjoining landowners.
Of course, it is not possible to make a list of the things a holder of
rights in a nonnavigable body of water can or cannot do.
The principles just discussed with respect to lakes and ponds apply
equally to nonnavigable streams, creeks and rivers. There, of course,
the likelihood of one single owner owning the entire length of the
stream is not as great as that of having only one owner on a lake. As
a result, most owners of land on a nonnavigable river or stream must
naturally respect the rights of those below and above them on the
The rights of owners on nonnavigable waterbodies are not subject to
nor are they shared with the general public. The general public has no
right in a nonnavigable waterbody.
Even in nonnavigable waters any consumptive use (other than domestic
use by individual users), impoundment, diversion or extraction is regulated
by the 1972 statute regardless of the source of water. Thus, even though
in one sense the rights in nonnavigable water are potentially greater
than those in navigable waters, they are subject to the same statutory
restrictions. If a permit is not required, the owner of land abutting
on a nonnavigable waterbody is not restricted in the use to be made of
the water except that the use must be reasonable relative to whatever
another owner on the same waterbody may wish to do or be able to do.
H. What are the rights of a landowner with respect to diffused
Diffused surface waters are those derived from falling rain and
melting snow or which rise to the surface from springs and are diffused
over the ground. In most cases, a spring which flows into a defined
channel and the waters of a permanent well-defined swamp would not be
considered diffused surface water. Diffused surface waters retain this
classification only so long as they remain diffused and do not seep
into the ground or join a defined body of water.
Although diffused surface waters are usually transitory and are not
generally present long enough for systematic appropriation, they are
subject to statutory restrictions. A permit is required to use (other
than use for domestic consumption by individual users), impound, divert,
or extract diffused surface water. Some rights appear to have been left
unchanged by the statute, however.
Florida has recognized that an upper owner has an easement in a
lower owner's land for drainage of diffused surface water. The lower
owner cannot obstruct this natural drainage if to do so unreasonably
interferes with the use of the upper land. For example, a lower owner
may not build a retaining wall to prevent the flow of water from the
upper property, thus interfering with the use of the upper land. On
the other hand, the lower owner has a right to have the water drain to
his property according to the natural drainage pattern and an upper
owner may not prevent the water from passing to the lower owner if it
would naturally have drained that way. The upper owner may accelerate
and enhance the natural drainage from his land if to do so will not cause
damage, but may not gather waters that would have flowed in one direction
and cast them onto another's property in a different direction. Again,
the test to be met is whether the use of the land is reasonable relative
to the rights of the other owners and whether the obstruction caused is
unreasonable. Each case, then, must necessarily be judged on its facts
Legislative restrictions on the right to impound or divert diffused
surface waters, in addition to the possibility of permits for the use of
such waters will be discussed later.
I. What rights to ground water remain unaffected by the 1972
Few, if any, common law rights to ground water remain unaffected by
the recent statute. Ground water is broadly defined as any water below
the surface of the earth, such as that which supplies wells and springs.
Subterranean waters are generally divided into two main groups:
underground streams which flow in known and ascertainable channels, and
percolating ground water which oozes, seeps or percolates through the
earth or flows in unknown or undefined channels. If the existence of
an underground stream is established, the law respecting surface
watercourses would apply such that owners of the overlying lands would
have riparian rights to the water. Definite proof of the existence of
such an underground stream is necessary, however, as there is a legal
persumption that the ground water is percolating in the absence of
such proof. This is of little practical significance since no riparian
rights have survived the statute of a kind that could practically be
exercised in the ground water. Any consumptive use or extraction is
now regulated by statute (except for domestic use by individual users).
J. Can any of the rights that have not been affected by the
statute be sold or otherwise transferred?
Clearly, riparian rights are property rights. The same is true
of the rights of landowners on nonnavigable waterbodies. These rights
are transferred with considerable regularity and frequency. However,
they cannot be sold separately from the land. They are automatically
created as a result of ownership of the land and equally automatically
pass with the property when it is sold or transferred. The rights are
seen by the law as part of the ownership of the land.
PART III STATUTORY WATER RIGHTS
A. Why can the government create, alter, modify and destroy or
regulate water rights?
The various water use rights stemmed originally and primarily from
our English heritage and their recognition by the courts in the United
States. As this country became more populated and industrialized, some
water uses were no longer recognized as rights. Changing needs created
new uses which were recognized by the courts to be enforcable rights.
Some of the old water use rights were changed to accommodate technological
and economic innovations.
In some instances these changes resulted from court action, while in
others changes were made by legislation. Regardless of the origin of the
present water use rights, they are the basic use rights of individual
citizens. Governmental regulations of many kinds limit and define these
rights. The need for these governmental regulations flows from two
basic ideas. First is the concept that only the right to use water can
be owned. Water itself is not capable of ownership by an individual.
Second is the concept that individual users sometimes use water in a way
which is harmful to others, and that some governing body must reconcile
Governmental regulations limit uses of water which are harmful to
the community. Thus, under its police powers the Florida Legislature
has begun programs to deal with pollution, floods and conservation of
water. These programs result in restrictions on individual water
rights, but two points must be recognized. First, water rights have
been created by law and exist unchanged, only so long as the law is
unchanged. Second, the government can alter, modify, change or destroy
water rights only so long as it acts in the interest of the public
health, safety, morals or welfare and does not act in an arbitrary,
capricious, or unreasonable manner.
B. How are the statutory rights acquired?
As a basic proposition, no person can make any withdrawal, diversion,
impoundment or consumptive use of water without getting a permit. You
may, however, use water for individual personal needs or for such
household purposes as drinking, bathing, heating, cooking or sanitation
without a permit. The water management districts determine when permits
are required and may impose reasonable conditions on the exercise of a
C. What criteria must be met to get a permit?
The statute requires an applicant to establish that the proposed
use of water --
1. will be reasonable and beneficial
2. will not interfere with any presently existing legal use
of water; and
3. will be consistent with the public interest.
The water management districts will require also such specific
information as the identity of the user, the source of water, the
amount of water and the place of use.
Reasonable-beneficial use is defined in the statute as the use of
water in such quantity as is necessary for economic and efficient
utilization for a purpose and in a manner which is both reasonable and
consistent with the public interest.
D. If a permit is granted, where can the water be used?
Under the common law, the user of water was required to use it on
riparian land or on land overlying the source of water. The owner could
not transport the water to another plot of land, nor could a nonriparian
bring the water to his place. That doctrine has been substantially
modified over the years. In Florida now, if water is to be used on
other than overlying land or outside the watershed from which it is
taken, authorization must be secured from the water management district.
Permission will be granted if such transport and use is consistent
with the public interest.
E. How long is the permit good?
Under the 1972 law water consumption permits have a time limit.
The duration may be as long as twenty years for individual users or
up to fifty years for a municipality, a governing body, a public works
or a public service corporation. Permits are granted also for construction,
impoundment or alterations of existing works. Time limits on these are
not as important as permits for consumption, though the permits will
expire generally within a specified period if the works authorized are
not constructed or completed.
F. Can a permit be revoked?
The use of false or misleading statements in the application,
willful violation of the conditions in the permit, or non-use of the
permitted use for two years or more may be sufficient basis for revoking
a permit. Note, also that if a water shortage occurs the water
management districts have special powers to limit consumption by
each permit holder. Different classes of permits, or different types
of uses, may be treated differently. Some uses may be limited, others
may be suspended entirely.
G. May a permit be renewed?
The renewal process is similar to the original application procedure.
If the permit sought is only for a continuation of the present permitted
use renewal may be granted unless there are competing demands. The law
requires districts to give precedence to an application for renewal
over new applications of equal merit.
H. Can permit rights be transferred?
The statute is not clear on this point. Generally water use rights
are not freely alienable and most likely they cannot be transferred
apart from the land for which they were granted. The courts may hold that
the right is personal to the permit holder and is extinguished if an
attempted transfer occurs, but nothing in the statute clearly justifies
I. What other ways can water be regulated by government?
The government may regulate water use as it controls pollution.
Generally, anything that would not naturally be in a body of water is
considered to be pollution. Examples are heat, waste chemicals, cow
dung and silt. While there are many types of pollution the government
so far is concerned only with regulating a few of the more harmful
forms. In particular the state regulates point source pollution which
injures plant or animal life. Point source pollution refers to pollution
from an identifiable source, such as a canal, pipe, feedlot or ditch.
This distinction is made as a matter of necessity. A quantitative
measurement can be made of the amount of waste flowing through a pipe,
but it is not so easy to measure the amount of pollution resulting
from fertilizing farm land. Similarly, the state regulates pollution
only to the extent that it injures some form of life. In other words
only pollution exceeding a safe amount is controlled. Once again this
distinction is drawn by necessity.
J. Who specifically is given authority to regulate pollution?
In theory both the state and the federal government regulate water
pollution. In fact the federal government has given its regulatory
powers to the state governments and has retained only a power to supervise
the states' activities or a power to act in the absence or inadequacy
of state action. Therefore, should you need advice on acceptable
pollution levels of a waste product being discharged or to be discharged
into a body of water, write or call:
Department of Environmental Regulation
Bureau of Waste Water Management
Executive Center Circle, East
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
K. What is an acceptable level of pollution?
In Florida there is no one standard for each type of pollutant.
The standard varies with the frequency of the discharge, the size and
quality of the receiving waters, the type of pollutant and so on. In
effect the Bureau of Waste Water Management tailors the acceptable
level for each polluter of each waterbody. This process is accomplished
through a permit system. The law states that no one may discharge
waste into receiving waters which would unduly reduce the water quality.
Thus, each person, who wishes to discharge waste, has the obligation to
apply for a permit. After reviewing an application the Bureau may deny,
grant without reservation, or grant the permit subject to stated
L. What are Water Management Districts and what do they do?
The water management districts are concerned with the quantity of
water consumed by various users and the quantity available for use. Note
that there is essentially no overlap between the water management
districts, which regulate the amount of water used, and the Bureau of
Waste Water Management, which regulates water quality.
There are five water management and flood control districts in the
state. The North West Florida Water Management District roughly covers
the panhandle region, including Leon and Wakulla Counties. The Suwannee
River Water Management District includes the Santa Fe and Suwannee River
basins, plus Columbia, Union and Bradford Counties and parts of Alachua,
Gilchrist and Levy Counties. The St. Johns River Water Management
District is the St. Johns River basin including portions of Alachua,
Marion, Lake and Orange Counties. The South West Florida Water
Management District is the area encompassed by the Wacassa River,
Oklawaha River, Green Swamp and Peace River basins, including portions
of Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Lake,Polk Counties, all of Hardee and Desoto
Counties, and the northwest corner of Charlotte County. The Central
and Southern Florida Flood Control District is the southern tip of the
peninsula including all of Brevard County and portions of Orange, Polk
and Charlotte Counties. The boundaries of these districts are not firmly
or finally set as of mid-1976. Some changes in boundaries likely will be
made in the next few months.
The addresses of the various districts are:
North West Florida Water Management District
325 John Knox Road, Suite C135
Tallahassee, Florida 32303
Suwannee River Water Management District
P. 0. Drawer K
White Springs, Florida 32096
St. John's River Water Management District
1101 Highway 19
Route 2, Box 695
Palatka, Florida 32077
South West Florida Water Management District
P. 0. Box 457
Brookesville, Florida 33512
Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District
P. 0. Box B
West Palm Beach, Florida 32402
M. How do the districts regulate water use?
All of the districts are charged with limiting the amount of water
used to the ability of the natural environment to replenish the supply.
The districts regulate the use of water through a permit system. You
must get a permit for: (1) construction involving underground formations;
(2) a consumptive use of water other than for domestic purposes; (3)
construction, repair or abandonment of a well; (4) construction or
alteration of any dam or impoundment, or construction or alteration of
any structure which might affect any of the works of the district; and
(5) maintenance or operation of any dam, impoundment or related work.
In summary, these situations cover almost every aspect of water use
except use for domestic purposes.
If a permit is needed or if you are not sure whether a permit is
needed, check with your district.
N. Who regulates dredging and filling?
Dredging or filling in a large number of bodies of water, or even
filling in or near any navigable body of water is subject to federal
regulation. For instance, the filling of a tidal marsh is regulated
by the federal government even when the fill is reached by the tide
only during Spring tides.
The Army Corps of Engineers has authority to issue permits for
dredging or filling of any waters. You must obtain a permit before
beginning to dredge or fill. The procedure is fairly simple and is
begun by writing or calling the Corps. The address for Florida is:
U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers
P. 0. Box 4970
Jacksonville, Florida 32201
In addition, any dredging or filling of any of the waters of
Florida is regulated by the Department of Environmental Regulation.
You must get a permit there, too. The Department of Environmental
Regulation address is:
Department of Environmental Regulation
Bureau of Permitting
2562 Executive Center Circle, East
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
0. Who regulates water use in areas of "Critical State Concern"
or "Endangered Lands"?
The State of Florida passed a bond issue to finance purchase of
environmentally endangered lands. Generally, the land purchased is
unique for some reason, is fairly small in area and is particularly
vulnerable to destruction unless the State buys it. Regulation or
control of such land poses no problem because the land is actually owned
by the state and the state exercises proprietary control. Note, however,
that not all state-owned lands are "environmentally endangered." For
the most part, the environmentally endangered lands program is a means
for the State to acquire and protect unique natural areas. It is not
directly a limitation on water use rights. The environmentally endangered
lands program affects water rights only to the extent that a particular
use of water might adversely affect the state land, or public interest
in the land.
Information about endangered lands can be obtained by writing or
Department of Natural Resources
Division of Recreation and Parks
202 Blunt Street
Talahassee, Florida 32304
Areas of "Critical State Concern" possess some special trait that
needs to be protected. They are not purchased by the State, but
special regulations are imposed to limit use or development to an
acceptable kind and degree. Not all development is prohibited, rather
only development that would tend to injure the special character of the
land. The effect of Areas of Critical State Concern on water rights is
limited only by the special regulations themselves. At present, the
Areas of Critical State Concern are the Big Cypress Swamp, the Green
Swamp, and the Florida Keys.
When an area is designated as being of Critical State Concern, the
characteristics to be protected are specified, and rules are promulgated
to insure their protection. The rules are enacted and administered by
the county commissions, and are supervised by the state government.
Thus, development in Big Cypress Swamp and the Florida Keys is
administered by Monroe County. Development in the Green Swamp is
administered by Lake and Polk Counties.
For information on areas of Critical State Concern write or call:
Division of State Planning
660 Appalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, Florida 32304
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For Big Cypress Swamp and the Florida Keys write or call:
Director of Planning and Zoning
Public Service Building, Wing 2
Key West, Florida 33040
For Green Swamp, Lake County, write or call:
Director of Planning
416 W. Main Street
Tavares, FLorida 32778
For Green Swamp, Polk County, write or call:
Division of Development Coordination
P. 0. Box 1909
Bartow, Florida 33830
Single copies free to residents of Florida. Bulk rates
available upon request. Please submit details on request
to Chairman, Editorial Department, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,Gainesville,
This publication was promulgated at a cost of $936.25,
or 37 cents per copy, to inform extension workers,
landowners and the public about the essential features
of Florida Water law.
Institute of Fond and Agricultural Sciences
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
Joe N. Busby, Dean