FLORIDA'S WATER RESOURCES: TRENDS, ISSUES, STRATEGIES
This report is the second in a four-volume series dealing with
policies and procedures for addressing Florida's water and related land
resources problems. It addresses water resources trends and issues, and
suggests a strategy for: analyzing these issues; establishing needed
policies; and implementing these policies appropriately.
WATER USE TRENDS AND PROJECTIONS
Basic to good water resources management and planning is a
knowledge of the state of the system to be dealt with and some notion of
what the system will look like in the future. This means that estimates
of current water use must be combined with forecasts of future
conditions. Determination of the baseline is an expensive and complex
task, projecting this baseline into the future so that decisions can be
made for future generations is orders of magnitude more difficult.
The amount of water used in Florida in the future will depend
considerably on how well the resource is managed and the nature of the
water policies that are implemented. There will be growth in all water-
using sectors, but that growth does not have to be accompanied by huge
increases in .freshwater withdrawals. The WMDs can play an important
role in affecting future water developments but, to do this, they will
have to give more consideration to exploring trends and making
projections, both of which are fundamental to devising appropriate
management strategies. This will be especially important in the South
and Southwest Districts where water use is heavy and seasonal variances
in supply are most critical.
The water-use patterns that have emerged over the years have been
influenced by a variety of factors, but there are options for modifying
past trends to bring them more into conformance with contemporary
policies and/or needs. These include:
Implementing conservation programs with appropriate
authorities to guarantee their enforcement.
Regulating fuel and energy costs for agricultural and
Restricting grant and loan programs so as to require that
new facilities be constructed and operated to minimize
Imposing environmental regulations that protect water sources
from overdraft and/or quality deterioration.
Conducting educational programs at school and community levels
to instill in citizens a more conservative attitude toward
Encouraging and/or requiring water reuse and recycling, as
Restricting funding for new water resources development projects.
Developing more efficient devices for using water in homes and
mploying pricing policies, taxes, and incentives to encourage
greater water-use efficiency.
Seven major water resources issues were identified: water use and
allocation; surface water management; groundwater protection and
management; .protection and management of natural systems; data networks
and monitoring; water quality management; and education.
Water Use and Allocation
The availability of water resources, geograhically and temporally,
the quality of these resources, the rates at which they are replenished
and depleted, and the demands placed upon them by all water-using
sectors, are determining factors in water management strategies.
Estimates of future water uses, although clouded with uncertainty, are
fundamental to efficient and/or equitable allocation of the resource.
These estimates require an understanding of the state of the resource at
the baseline. They also depend upon an ability to forecast changes in:
population; agricultural and industrial activity; economic conditions:
technology; and other related factors. For the WMDs to provide optimal
guidance to local governments arid others, they must be prepared not only
to permit water uses, but to guarantee that these permits are issued
with. full understanding of their impacts on other present and potential
water users and that they reflect District and State policies.
Furthermore, attention must be focused on all possible means to reduce
future water requirements in the several water-using sectors and to
explore opportunities for more efficient use of existing facilities,
inter-connecting distribution systems, for example.
Surface Water Management
The surface water management issue is one concerning the natural
and modified systems that transport the surface waters of the state.
The groundwater management issue encompasses the development,
protection, and regulation of the state's groundwater resources. In
Florida, the interrelationship between groundwaters and surface waters
is commonly pronounced, due to the somewhat unique geologic,
topographic, and climatic conditions that are encountered. The issue of
water quality is inextricably linked to surface water management.
Historically, the surface water management issue has been mostly
focused on drainage and flood control. Today, these subjects are still
important, but they share the spotlight with topics such as restoration
of riverine systems, maintenance of flow levels and rates for
environmental purposes, urban storm water control, interbasin transfers,
salinity control, and replenishment of aquifers.
Surface water management in Florida is complicated by frequent
extremes in precipitation, flat topography, limited surface storage
areas, intensity of population in southern coastal regions, and
conflicts among those desiring to use or control the water.
Groundwater Protection and Management
The importance of groundwater to the health and well being of the
citizens of Florida is well documented. Groundwater is the principal
source of freshwater for public supply, rural and industrial uses, and
it constitutes about half of the water used in the irrigation of crops.
More than half of the freshwater used in Florida for all purposes comes
from groundwater sources, and about 90 percent of the state's population
depends on groundwater for its drinking water. The need to husband this
resource is clear. Quantity and quality dimensions are both very
Protection and Management of Natural Systems
Since the Environmental Movement of the 1960s, society has
increasingly focused its attention on protecting natural systems and
improving its understanding of the role these systems play in
maintaining a balance in nature. The State of Florida has been a leader
in setting environmental policy and, in doing so, has created a
challenge to its agencies and citizens as they seek feasible ways to
implement these policies. Many political subdivisions, agencies,
industries, businesses, and individuals, are affected. Furttiermore, the
scientific reservoir available for solving some of the environmental
problems being faced is limited, and the need for accelerated studies
and research is clear.
The water-related aspects of protecting and managing natural
systems are abundant. Dealing with them will require special policies
and close coordination with a host of existing and proposed programs
conducted under the auspices of various levels of government. Water
management policies that encourage or result in excessive growth may
also trigger unwanted spill-over effects on the environment. The
drainage and/or reclamation of lands may provide additional opportunity
for economic development, for example, but not without a price to be
paid in disrupting the prevailing ecosystem. Development and
environmental protection can be partners, but only if care is exercised
in modifying the landscape. Growth management policies that embrace the
many dimensions that must be dealt with in managing natural systems are
Data Networks and Monitoring
Although the issue of data networks and monitoring transcends water
resources, it must be considered a major water management issue.
Without information about what has happened, what the present picture
is, and -what is happening, water resources planning and management would
be operating in the dark.
Data networks are needed to provide baseline information for
analyses and decision making. Monitoring, while part of the data
network system, is usually more specific to the tracing of some
particular condition, the movement of a pollutant plume, for example.
Monitoring systems are also important features of regulatory processes
as they are the mechanisms by which compliance, or non-compliance, is
judged, and by which progress in dealing with some problem is being
made. The design of monitoring systems to nudge how water quality
improvement is being affected by actions being taken, for example, must
include all. of the data elements in space and time to reasonably
ascertain changes that are occurring, and at an achievable cost.
Data collection and monitoring systems are essential to water
resources planning and management processes, but they are very costly
operations and thus their designs must be carefully devised.
Water Quality Management
Since the late 1960s, water quality issues have dominated the water
resources field. While water quality cannot be divorced from the issue
of quantity, it deserves special attention because of its implications
for affecting the public health and the quality of life in general.
Even with the large federal investments in pollution control since 1972,
the President's Council on Environmental Quality reports that the
nation's waters continue to be damaged by pollution and misuse.
Pollutants reach water bodies from both point and non-point sources.
Municipal wastes, urban and agricultural runoff, and industrial wastes
are principal offenders. In Florida, the water quality management issue
is particularly acute because of the proximity of potable groundwater
supplies to polluting influences. The impacts of polluting activities
are widespread and they affect the public health, the economy, and the
An issue of considerable importance is our ability to cope with a
seemingly endless stream of new and/or emerging environmental problems.
Most of these have water-management implications. The dimensions are
both technical and social. Developing a clear understanding of these
problems and devising courses of action to deal with them are not
trivial matters. All facets of education are involved. These range
from formal instructional programs to advising members of decision-
making bodies. Education is vital to our ability to solve many of the
problems being faced, and thus it is an important element in water
management as well.
A STATE REGIONAL WATER PLANNING STRATEGY
The key to a more positive effort at growth management in Florida
is a coordinated program of planning and management. Needed are
factually-supported, before-the-fact plans to guide management at state,
regional, and local levels. Relative to water resources, such plans
should include: an embodiment of state and regional policies:
alternative strategies for meeting water supply needs and for managing
surface waters and groundwaters; information on the impacts of
implementing various management strategies on humans and the
environment;, details of the economic and social costs of exercising
these options: and implications of proposed land-use actions on water
quantity and water quality.
The 1978 and the 1985-1986 State Water Use Plans (SWUP) represent
attempts by the Governor's Office and the Legislature to develop a
statewide strategy for managing the state's waters. In many respects,
however, these processes have resulted more in a listing of problems and
general recommendations than they have in establishing an implementable
strategy. Lacking are: pro/con analyses: impact analyses: cost
estimates: benefit determinations: prioritization; analyses of
implementability with a time-table: and a determination of deficiencies
in regulatory and/or statutory authority. The 1985-1986 approach to
developing a SWUP is an improvement over past efforts, in that it
attempts to establish broad policies at the state level that would then
be implemented by the agencies and/or other planning-managing entitles.
Even so, the treatment of water issues is superficial and less than
comprehensive. As time goes on and experience is gained, it is expected
that some modifications will result.
Three Tiered Framework
A planning strategy, consistent with the :hree levels of planning
already being carried out in Florida, is proposed. It differs, however,
in process and in definition of what planning should be at the several
levels. The first tier is the State Water Use Plan. The policy-
oriented approach taken by the Legislature in 1985 is considered to be
correct conceptually, but in need of some improvements operationally.
The second tier is regional planning by the WMDs, defined here as
strategic planning. Finally, there is the planning which must take
place at local levels of government. For this tri-level system to
efficiently pursue options for dealing with growth, the process must be
one that clearly defines the nature of the performance expected at each
level and that provides a degree of coordination among the tiers that
will guarantee minimal duplication of effort and maximal use of planning
At the state level, a policy-setting orientation for the SWUP is
appropriate. This is what was envisioned by the Florida Legislature
when it. enacted the State Comprehensive Plan in 1985. Unfortunately,
the urgency associated with developing the SWUP has created a situation
where in-depth analyses of issues and the identification of options for
dealing with them have been severely constrained.
State Level Policy Planning
By focusing on a process, the development of policy for dealing
with current and emerging issues, state level water planning becomes
dynamic and serves as the framework for planning and management at
regional and local levels. The state's water resources continue to be
developed for various uses; they also continue to be abused by man's
activities. .Accordingly, existing policies must continually be examined
for validity and new ones developed to meet contemporary needs. There
is a need for an institutional structure that can provide an ongoing
dialogue between those engaged in planning and management and those
charged with establishing policies for the state, namely the Governor
and Legislature. The legislation establishing the State Comprehensive
Plan (1985) provides the basis for such an institution, but it does not
go far enough in spelling out the nature of the linkages that will be
required between action agencies and decision-making bodies. The
Governing and Legislating bodies must continually sense the need for
developing and/or modifying existing policies, and they must relay this
information to those in a position to carry out the analyses needed to
support legislation, rule-making, and ultimately, water resource
management at all levels of government. But for this process to be
successful, it must be continuous (dynamic) and thorough (complete in
its display and evaluation of options). The details of one such process
are presented in this section. Its principal elements are: identifying
emerging issues; setting priorities; examining legal-institutional
frameworks: obtaining public input; reviewing current actions, projects
and programs; identifying policy options; and analyzing these options
and their impacts.
Regional Level Strategic Planning
The second tier in the state-regional water planning strategy is
regional planning. At this level, it is considered that the WMDs, in
cooperation with the RPCs and local governments, would be the principal
actors. The regional planning process would be designed to achieve
three objectives: provide assistance to local governments; serve as an
input to the state's policy planning process; and guide the development
and management of the region's water resources. In many respects, the
strategic planning process suggested here would be the principal
operational water planning element in the state. It would translate
state policies into action and serve to guide water management actions
by local governments, industries, and other entities. The regional
planning process would go beyond the more general dimensions of the
state policy plans, and would deal with regional water problems and set
courses of action for dealing with them. Site-specific alternatives
would be considered, for example, as would a focus on any special
situations considered critical. Furthermore, the process would be
designed to consider impending problems, in particular, those foreseen
far enough in advance, to permit devising and implemeAting courses of
action early enough to preclude the development of critical situations.
The key to the success of the regional strategic planning process is its
design. If it is conducted to provide the framework for water resources
decision-making in the region, and to anticipate problems, then it will
be productive. Otherwise, it may be just a costly exercise. The
ultimate goal should be to facilitate informed decisions on the
management of the waters of the region, consistent with state policy,
and with appropriate input from regional constituents.
Local Level Comprehensive Planning
The Local Government Comprehensive Planning Act of 1975 required
that each unit of local government develop a comprehensive plan. These
plans include water and other elements and are therefore an embodiment
of proposed resource management actions at the local level. The need
for coordinating these plans with state policies and other resource
planning processes is clear. In the context of the state-regional
planning strategy proposed here, they represent the third tier. The
regional strategic plans of the 1IMDs, as envisioned herein, would become
the standards for local government water resources planning and
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
A review of Florida's water resources issues, water-use trends, and
water resources planning and management strategies, discloses the
water use has been increasing at a fairly uniform pace
since about 1955;
freshwater use in the year 2000 will probably range from
about 8 to 11 billion gallons per day, the actual level
depending primarily on the nature of water management
strategies that are implemented during the remaining
years of the century;
-- there is a fairly strong correlation between freshwater
Suse in all sectors and population; this correspondence
is most pronounced, of course, for public water systems:
there have been very few attempts by the WMDs to make
future water-use projections since the 1978 SWUP was
there is a clear need for more attention to be given to
the forecasting of water-use trends and to those for
their determining factors;
the water-related issues facing the state are generally
well recognized and tracked;
analyses of these issues by state agencies, WMDs, and
others have often been incomplete and/or inconsistent
in their coverage;
the 1985 legislation establishing the State Comprehensive
Plan, also mandated the development of a policy-focused
State Water Use Plan, a positive break from the tradition
of designing "the comprehensive plan":
unrealistic deadlines and a shallow process design will
likely result in the SWUP process being too superficial
for effective water policy planning; and
procedural modifications to the SWUP process could overcome
the present shortcomings of the process and transform it
into an effective tool for supporting the development
and/or revision of Florida water management policy, and for
guiding regional and local government water resources planning
and management actions.
Accordingly, it is recommended that a three-tiered water resources
planning process, of the type presented here, be considered for
implementation. Such a process, consisting of state policyplanning,
regional strategic planning, and local government comprehensive planning
elements, would provide a strong policy basis for decision-making as
well as a structure for allocating and managing the state's waters in a
coordinated and forward-looking context.