FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DURING THE LAST 50 YEARS
The predecessor to today's water management act was created in 1949 in Chapter 25209,
1949, Laws of Florida. It was entitled the Flood Control Act. In the same year Chapter
25270, 1949, Laws of Florida, created the Central and Southern Flood Control District.
Chapter 25214, 1949, Laws of Florida, set the boundaries for this district. In 1957 the Water
Resource Act (Chapter 373) became law authorizing creation of water regulatory districts.
Southwest Florida Water Management District was originally created by Chapter 61-691,
Laws of Florida. It was given broader water management authority, including flood control.
Both districts were headed by governing boards.
The water management district governing boards currently authorized under Chapter 373,
F.S., and created under The Water Resources Act of 1972 (Chapter 72-299) are collegial
bodies of appointed lay citizens who are responsible for comprehensive water resource
management in Florida. The best background for the statutory scheme that was envisioned by
Chapter 72-299, Laws of Florida, is contained in A Model Water Code by Frank E. Maloney,
Richard C. Ausness and J. Scott Morris, 1972, University of Florida Press.
Major legislative actions that have had an effect on the duties, purposes, or organization
of the governing boards include:
1973: Chapter 73-190, Laws of Florida, added sub-section (7) to Section 373.103, F.S., to
provide for development of the applicable portion of the state water use plan by a district that
had been delegated that option by DER. The law also consolidated former Chapters 373 and
378, F.S., into Chapter 373, F.S.
1974: Chapter 74-114, Laws of Florida, established the authority for and powers of regional
water supply authorities.
1975: Chapter 75-245, Laws of Florida, mandated a special election to be held for the approval
or rejection by the electors of a joint resolution amending Section 9, Article VII of the Florida
Constitution granting the water management districts the authority to levy ad valorem taxes.
This amendment was passed in the special election in March 1976.
1976: Chapter 76-243, Laws of Florida, created the residency requirements of governing
board members and revised Section 373.073, F.S., to reflect the reduction of then-existi
districts from six to five by elimination of the Ridge and Lower Gulf Coast Water Managemegq
District. Much of that former district was absorbed by the Southwest District. Additionally, the
Olawaha Basin was transferred to the St. John's River District. The authority for and requisite
funding of West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority by the Southwest District was included.
Chapter 76-243 also substantially revised Part II of Chapter 373, F.S., pre-empting any local
government regulation of the consumptive use of water including inter-county transfers.
Sections 9 and 10, Chapter 76-243, Laws of Florida. The manner of taxation contained in
Section 373.503, F.S., was amended authorizing and limiting the collection, distribution, and
use by the water management districts of the ad valorem tax authorized by Section 9(b), Article
VII, of the Constitution of the State of Florida.
1981: In 1981, Chapter 81-33, Laws of Florida, was passed by the Florida Legislature. By
adding Section 373.59, F.S., and amending Chapter 200, F.S., the legislation created the Water
Management Lands Trust Fund to be funded by the excise tax on instruments related to lands.
Sections 1 through 3, Chapter 81-33, Laws of Florida. The trust fund was established to allow
water management districts to purchase property for water management, water supply and the
conservation and protection of water resources. Section 3, Chapter 81-33, Laws of Florida.
1983: Chapter 83-310, Laws of Florida, affected the governing boards by its requirements that
the districts adopt plans for plugging certain artesian wells and plug those wells that were
threatening public drinking supplies. The Chapter also required that the DER by October 1,
1984, delegate the administration of its stormwater rule to the South and Southwest Districts.
Authority was provided for water well driller and equipment registration, and for issuing water
well contractor licenses under rules to be delegated by the DER. Water management districts
were given immediate authority to regulate construction involving underground formations until
the authority was delegated by the DER. Lastly, Section 373.114, F.S., providing for review
of the districts' rules and orders by the Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission and review
of the district's rules for consistency with the State Water Policy by the DER was
substantially reworded. See Sections 6, 7, 8, 68, 70, 71, 72, 76 and 77, Chapter 83-310, Laws
1984: Under Section 1 of the Warren S. Henderson Wetlands Protection Act, Chapter 84-79,
Laws of Florida, which created Section 403.913, F.S., the water management districts were
given exclusive authority to regulate wetlands used for agricultural management systems.
1986: The Florida Legislature in Section 10, Chapter 86-186, Laws of Florida, created Section
373.414, F.S., which required water management districts that were delegated stormwater
regulation by the DER, by March 31, 1987, to adopt a rule establishing permit criteria for the
regulation of isolated wetlands including the protection of threatened and endangered
1987: The legislature passed the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act (SWIM),
Chapter 87-97, Laws of Florida, under which the water management districts are responsible for
developing priorities, plans and programs for restoring surface water bodies.
1988: Chapter 88-242 increased number of governing board members for Southwest Florida
Water Management District from nine to twelve, changing required residency area boundaries
from watershed divides to county lines. The law also changed the commencement date of
terms of governing board members to March 2; abolished the Oklawaha River Basin and
provided for establishment of an Oklawaha River Advisory Council; and, extended Sunset
Review for another year.
1989: Chapter 89-279 made further refinements to the two-year old SWIM legislation relating
to restoration of surface water bodies.
1990: The legislature passed the Florida Preservation 2000 Act providing substantial funding
and bonding for land acquisition by water management districts and other governmental
1993: The legislature merged DER and DNR into a newly created Department of
Environmental Protection; adopted a definition for "wetlands"; mandated that DEP develop
rules streamlining the environmental permitting system, including development of a uniform
methodology for delineation of wetlands; established a method of mitigation for wetland
damage by use of mitigation banking; and, continued funding of the Florida Preservation 2000
Act for land acquisition.
1994: The legislature reviewed and approved a new methodology for delineation of wetlands
and provided for Everglades Restoration and an Everglades SWIM plan.
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