p THE WATER MANAGEMENT'S NON-REGULATORY MISSION:
THE FORGOTTEN PURPOSE
Presented at the 1995 annual conference of the Water Management Institute, Inc.
Charles A. Padera, Director
Department of Water Resources
St. Johns River Water Management District
In this era of governing "down-sizing" and corporate "re-engineering," many
organizations are increasingly motivated to examine their past performance and future role in the
marketplace or public service arena. This motivation has, in the case of the government sector,
come from external forces, namely disaffected citizens and their representatives. The most vocal
segment of the public is undoubtedly the regulated community and those special interest groups
that look toward the regulatory process to further a particular purpose.
Disagreements between regulatory agencies and regulated industries often center on the
disparate missions of the two organizations. However, this dissension can become
emotionalized, even to the point where the emotion itself clouds the central issues. By
heightening emotion, a galvanizing force can easily be created so that a sense of crisis emerges
and becomes all consuming.
Nothing is more polarizing or galvanizing than a crisis. The most vocal members of any
disaffected citizenry can often effectively harness the disenchantment of the group and funnel
that energy to further individual agendas. Too often, a highly charged or purely emotional
response tends to over-simplify highly complex issues. Such over-simplification and undue
-o emotionalism can produce negative public perceptions among customers or stakeholders that--if
not corrected--can result in the overall mission of a given business or government agency to be
S completely overlooked or misunderstood. I believe this is the environment that many
governmental agencies are now facing. This holds particularly true for the institution of water
management in the state of Florida.
Because of the water management districts' highly visible regulatory function, they are
often in the center of conflict with regulated groups. It is important to stress however, the many
other functions that the water management districts perform for the benefits of Florida's citizens
and natural environment. This paper will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the
water management districts' overall mission.
Most people in the business of developing or protecting this state's water resources are
familiar with the creation of the water management districts. The floods of the 1940's and
1960's, coupled with the droughts of the 1970's set the stage for the development of the flood
control and water supply missions of the water management districts. The environmental
awareness of the late 1960's and 1970's started the modification of the district's purpose,
whereas today these regional districts are now multi-purpose resource agencies.
In addition to their original tasks of water supply and flood control, the districts are now
wholly or partially responsible for: protecting surface and ground water quality, acquiring and
managing land resources, protecting endangered or threatened species, restoring degraded water
bodies, assisting local governments with water resource issues, and providing sound
environmental education for the citizenry of the state. A more comprehensive review of these
vital functions follows.
Flood control is a primary function of the districts and is accomplished in a number of
ways. The most familiar and extensive water management works in Florida are those of the
Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project and other federal flood control projects
authorized by Congress in the late 1940's. Collectively the three largest districts, South Florida
Water Management District (SFWMD), Southwest Water Management District (SWFWMD),
and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), are required to administer a
network of over 1,800 miles of levees and canals, 275 major water control structures, and nearly
335,000 acres of water storage areas for the primary purpose of flood control.
The operation and maintenance of these projects is an extensive function that requires
over 700 employees, over one-quarter of the total staff of the three major districts. Unlike many
other discrete programs, operation and maintenance tasks are an ongoing and daily aspect of the
districts' programs. Thousands of hours are spent every year in monitoring and preparing water
control structures for adverse weather conditions and other events that may threaten property and
public welfare. Collectively the three largest water management districts, SFWMD, SJRWMD,
and SWFWMD, spend over $70 million dollars annually for operation and maintenance activities
such as levee maintenance, aquatic plant management, structure maintenance and repair,
personnel training, hydrologic and hydraulic monitoring, and necessary support staff. These
activities protect property with an assessed valued of over $500 billion in the approximately
40,000 square mile service area of the three largest districts.
In addition to the fiscal resources needed to run the "nuts and bolts" aspects of the several
flood control projects, all of the districts have resources directed at flood avoidance and control
Projects. Flood avoidance is central to the regulatory process. The districts, through
their surface water management permitting programs, establish specific basin discharge criteria
that limit the amount of water that may be released from a project. In the absence of a basin
specific allocation for discharge, the districts use a pre-construction verse post-construction
analysis. This typically allows a project to discharge the amount of water equal to or less than
what was discharged from the site prior to the construction of the project.
Identifying flood prone areas and developing water management plans are other tools
used by the district in their flood control programs. Much of this work is accomplished through
cooperative arrangements with local, regional and federal governments. These management
tools are directed at preventing inappropriate development in areas inclined to flooding or
identifying proactive methods to correct existing drainage problems.
SAn example of one such effort is the Master Stormwater Management Plan currently
being developed for the City of Jacksonville by city engineers and the St. Johns River Water
Management District staff. This planning and implementation effort is endeavoring not only to
identify and rectify existing drainage problems, but also improve water quality discharges into
the lower basin of the St. Johns River. To date, over $3 million in state, water management and
city funds have been applied to this effort, which is expected to ultimately require over $250
million for implementation.
To offset the cost of water management planning, the Districts work with local
governments, regional and state agencies to identify potential sources of revenue to fund both
the planning and implementation of these efforts. In addition to the City of Jacksonville effort,
the water management districts have similar activities in the Boggy Creek, Econlockhatchee
River, Wekiva River, Lake Harris, Palatlakaha River basins of Lake County, Anclote basin of
Pasco County, Withlacoochee basin in Citrus and Sumter counties, and Kissimmee
River/Everglades basin, for example. Over $59 million is currently allocated among the five
districts for a variety of local government assistance and outreach programs.
While the original purpose of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District
(C&SF) project was flood control, its vast plumbing network of canals and structures also enable
water managers to supply great amounts of water to vast agricultural areas and recharge urban
well fields. Over 500,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) depend on the
delivery of water for irrigation via the C&SF system. This irrigation water supports an industry
in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) that is conservatively worth $1.5 billion annually.
While drainage and flood protection projects dominated the early years of water
management in Florida, water supply and water resources restoration projects have become
important components of the water management mission in recent years. Population growth and
its corresponding demands on the state's water resources have given particular emphasis to the
restoration and protection of surface waters and ground waters. Saltwater intrusion, groundwater
contamination, degradation of surface water quality, and loss of recharge areas are some of the
major threats to the state's water supply. The five water management districts have programs in
place to address the particular problems facing their region.
Water managers at SJRWMD have for several years sponsored an aggressive abandoned
artesian well plugging program. To date, 989 well have been plugged or repaired, saving
approximately 225 million gallons of water per day. Programs such as this conserve today's
resources as well as tomorrow's.
SWhile managing our current water resources, water managers are also preparing for the
future. All five water management districts have active programs for protecting and conserving
current water supplies, as well as developing new water sources. Working with local
governments, water user industry associations and water utilities, the water management districts
are projecting the needs and identifying potential sources of water for the state to the year 2010.
The SWFWMD is a leader in investigating the use of reclaimed water for wellfield recharge.
Currently, scientists and engineers at SWFWMD are working with local governments in Pasco,
Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties to develop a pilot project using reclaimed water to relieve
reduce potentially harmful effects on the Starkey, Cross Bar, and Cypress Creek wellfields.
Comprehensive ground and surface water investigations are allowing water managers to
identify water supply problem areas. Problems such as saltwater intrusion in supply aquifers,
C adverse environmental impacts due to over use of source areas, and the potential of source
depletion or contamination are being tackled by the water management districts. Using
Geographical Information Systems (GIS), district scientists are able to pinpoint with greater
speed and accuracy sensitive areas.
In addition to identifying new or expanding existing sources of water, the water
management districts are advocates for reuse of treated storm and waste waters. They are the
leaders in water conservation initiatives aimed at stretching our existing supplies. Through the
efforts of the water management districts, xeriscape (landscaping to minimize water use for
irrigation) is a common practice today. It is estimated that current water conservation efforts in
the Southwest Florida Water Management District alone are saving are saving over 5.6 million
gallons of water per day.
ISLAND ACQUISITION & MANAGEMENT
The water management districts have historically maintained an aggressive land
acquisition program. Florida Statues gave general authority to the Districts to acquire land for
"flood control, water storage, water management, and preservation of wetlands, streams, and
lakes." Initially, much of the land acquired was aimed at providing the necessary land interests
to construct and operate flood control systems. Flowage easements and fee title interests were
obtained to meet federal requirements associated with the Flood Control District efforts. As
concerns about the environment and population pressures increased, land acquisition efforts at
the water management districts expanded. The districts now acquire land to protect, preserve,
and enhance water resources for future generations. Collectively, the five water management
districts have allocated over $200 million in fiscal year 1995 for this purpose.
' The benefit of land acquisition are manifold. Lands purchased by the water management
Non-structural flood control Land acquisition can prevent costly and hazardous
development in inappropriate areas, as well as provide adequate floodplain protection.
Buffering of Sensitive Areas Certain resources cannot be protected effectively or fairly
through regulation alone. For example, uplands adjacent to a tributaries are critical to
protecting the water resources. Permitting alone often cannot protect critical functions of
he watershed, such as wetlands.
Natural System Protection Many natural areas, such as a salt marsh, have resource
values well beyond their immediate boundaries. Acquisition provides an equitable
method of protecting the entire ecological system and compensating land owners for any
property that had any development potential.
Ground Water Recharge High recharge areas are purchased to insure safe and sufficient
water for today, as well as tomorrow.
Recreation Recreation for physical and mental health is an extremely important side
" benefit to public land acquisition. Over 95 percent of water management district lands
are open to the public.
The Save Our Rivers and Preservation 2000, two state-funded programs, have provided
needed funds for the water management districts to purchase sensitive lands within each district's
boundary. Since their inception, the water management districts have acquired more than 853,00
acres of land in the state. Cooperative efforts between the districts and numerous private and
public associations have combined the talents and fiscal resources of the best acquisition teams in
the nation to protect some of the most unique lands in the United States. An active land
management program by the districts provides responsible stewardship and resource management
of these public lands and opens thousands of acres of land annually for public recreation where
such public use is compatible with established environmental and water management objectives.
Despite wide-spread support for public land acquisition programs, such as the
Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL), P-2000, and Save Our Rivers, the districts are often
S criticized for taking lands off public tax roles. Concern is often expressed regarding the impact
of the districts' land acquisition programs to the local tax base. As the following example
illustrates, however, the SJRWMD has acquired over 68,000 acres of land a total cost of nearly
$100 million to support the non-structural aims of its Upper St. Johns River Basin Project.
Although a significant amount of land needed for this project have been removed from the local
ad valorem tax base, the actual 1990 tax revenues lost to the affected counties were less than
4/100 of one percent. This average "loss" is equal to less than ten cents per person per year. It is
difficult to calculate the off-setting gains to the entire upper St. Johns River region of the
outstanding water resources benefits and associated public recreational opportunities.
WATER RESOURCES RESTORATION
Environmental restoration and ecosystem management are two of the newest, and in
many ways the most exciting, of the water management districts' missions. While a principle
participant (or at minimum a successor-agency) to the adverse alteration of Florida's wetland
ecosystems, today the water management districts are "on point" with the some of the largest
restoration initiatives anywhere in the world.
Starting in the 1980's, the SFWMD was the first entity to initiate restoration of the
Kissimmee River. Once a contiguous ecosystem from the headwater lakes in Central Florida to
its outfall in Lake Okeechobee, the Kissimmee River was channalized as part of flood control
actions of the late 1960's and 1970's. The intended purpose of this drainage project was to
provide the headwater counties and the agricultural areas adjacent to the river with a reliable
level of flood protection. While accomplishing the intended mission, this project created
considerable adverse environmental impacts that were eventually deemed unacceptable by the
State of Florida and the federal government.
The current restoration project is a joint effort between the South Florida Water
Management District and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project will restore about
26,500 acres of wetlands and 40 square miles of historic river floodplain ecosystem. The
conservative cost of restoration is about $372 million, with SFWMD and the USACOE equal
partners. Construction in April 1994 and it will take about 15 years to complete. When
completed, the project will improve water quality, increase flood storage, expand fish and
wildlife habitat, and promote recreational opportunities for the citizens of Florida.
A lesser known, but highly successful restoration effort is nearly completed in the in the
SJRWMD. Like other waterways of south Florida, the upper St. Johns River basin was also a
target of the flood control efforts of the 1940's and 1950's. In 1954, the Army Corps of
Engineers began to implement an amended flood control plan that included the headwaters of the
St. Johns River. Major works were constructed under this amended plan. A primary canal and a
number of gated structures were constructed that conveyed flood waters to the Indian River
Lagoon and drained significant areas of riverine wetlands. However, the environmental
awareness of the 1960's and 1970's lead to a significant re-evaluation of this project. The project
was later deemed unacceptable due to its adverse environmental impacts.
Engineers and scientists from the St. Johns River Water Management District and the
Army Corps of Engineers initiated a redesign effort and developed a project plan that maintained
the flood control mission of the original plan without the adverse environmental impacts of the
original design. Today's Upper St. Johns River Basin Project has an environmental restoration
aspect that is almost equal in status to its flood control purpose. Almost 80 percent complete, the
project has restored 36,000 acres of riverine floodplain, significantly reduced adverse interbasin
diversions to the Indian River Lagoon and improved the water quality discharges to the St. Johns
River marshes. The project also provides significant habitat for fish and wildlife and has been
hailed as a national model of modem floodplain management.
The five water management districts also have extensive data collection and monitoring
programs which assist with restoration and planning efforts. The districts collect information
regarding water quality, water quantity, hydrology, biology, and vegetation. In addition to
supporting water management programs, this information is utilized by federal, state, local, and
nonprofit agencies in all facets of environmental work.
SSWIM RESTORATION PROGRAMS
In 1987, the Florida Legislature passed the Surface Water Improvement and Management
Act, or SWIM, to provide funding for the cleanup, restoration, and protection of Florida's lakes,
rivers and bays.
SWIM has served as a funding catalyst for the water management districts to protect and
restore basins, rather than isolated wetlands or water bodies. Originally, the Legislature provided
80 percent funding for restoration, with a 20 percent contribution from the sponsoring water
management district. However, in recent years, the funding level has declined to the point were
the state now funds less than 50 percent of the costs. This reduction has impacted many SWIM
programs, with the postponement or elimination of some projects, and has required the water
management districts to overmatchh" SWIM funding to keep many construction-oriented SWIM
projects on track.
All SWIM programs share similar goals: water quality protection, natural systems
protection, watershed management, and development of partnerships between government,
business, and environmental interests. Some of the largest restoration projects at the five water
management districts are funded by the SWIM program. Following is a list of all the currently
approved SWIM programs of the districts and a discussion of selected programs.
Southwest Florida Water Management District
Tampa Bay Tampa Bay is Florida's largest and most heavily used open-water estuary.
Shoreline development and stormwater pollution from urban and industrial discharges have taken
a toll on the bay. By 1988, 44 percent of the Bay's mangrove and marsh habitat was gone, along
with 80 percent of its seagrasses. Fisheries and shellfish harvesting had essentially ceased. The
Tampa Bay SWIM program focuses on restoring habitat, controlling freshwater flow to the bay,
Sand removing nonpoint sources of pollution. Through the efforts of many agencies and local
government, the Bay is on its way to recovery. Seagrasses are returning and water quality has
Other SWIM programs at the SWFWMD include: Rainbow River/Blue Run; Banana
Lake; Crystal River/Kings Bay; Lake Panasoffkee; Charlotte Harbor; Lake Tarpon; Lake
Thonotosassa; and the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes.
South Florida Water Management District
Lake Okeechobee The largest freshwater lake in Florida, this water body has been the
center of heated public controversy. The lake has been used for agricultural irrigation, water
supply for lakeside communities, flood storage, a supplemental water source for coastal
communities, and a water source for the South Florida's ecosystem. Because of these many
demands, the lake has been managed much like a reservoir. Most of the lake's marshy shoreline
has been eliminated due to the artificial stabilization of water levels. Nutrient-rich discharges to
the lake over many years have polluted its water. The Okeechobee SWIM program has worked
to reduce nutrient inputs through regulatory efforts and by working with farmers to modify
agricultural practices, such as reducing fertilizer application, and implementing other Best
Management Practices (BMPs).
Other SWIM programs at SFWMD include: Florida Everglades; Indian River Lagoon
(joint effort with SJRWMD); and Biscayne Bay.
St. Johns River Water Management District
Lake Apopka In the 1950's, Lake Apopka was renown for its crystal waters, sandy bottom, and
trophy-sized bass. Today, the lake is a sickly green and the bass are nearly non-existent. Years
of pollution from agricultural discharges have severely degraded the lake.
of pollution from agricultural discharges have severely degraded the lake.
Today, scientists and engineers are using nature's filters marshes to restore the lake. A 1,850
acre demonstration marsh flow-way system constructed on former agricultural lands to filter
nutrients has had promising effects on water clarity and quality. Initial tests show the restored
marsh are capable of removing nearly half of the phosphorus and nitrogen from the water -
exceeding all projections. Almost all suspended solids are removed from the water column.
After a monitoring phase, the flow will be expanded to a 5,000 acre system. Other projects to
supplement the marsh flow-way include planting aquatic plants to help stabilize shoreline
sediments and removal of gizzard shad.
Other SWIM programs at SJRWMD include: Indian River Lagoon (joint effort with the
SFWMD); Lower St. Johns River; and Upper Ocklawaha River.
Northwest Florida Water Management District
* Lake Jackson Unlike Lake Apopka, Lake Jackson is still known for recreational fishing. The
lake is a State Aquatic Preserve and an Outstanding Florida Water, but stormwater runoff is
threatening water quality. Through the cooperation of many federal, state, and local government
agencies, several projects have been constructed to help improve and protect Lake Jackson. The
District's Megginnis Arm Stormwater Treatment Facility uses a large detention pond, a sand
filter, and manmade marshes to clean-up stormwater flowing into the lake. More treatment
facilities are being constructed to handle additional stormwater.
Other SWIM programs at NWFWMD include: Apalachicola River and Bay; Deer Point
Lake; and Pensacola Bay.
Suwannee River Water Management District
Suwannee River The focus of this SWIM program is protecting and monitoring the 245
mile river. Overall, the health of the river is good, although some of the tributaries along the
river have become degraded. Activities focus on monitoring water quality, educating the public
about the river, and collecting needed information. The SRWMD has assisted local governments
on their comprehensive plan elements that affect the river system. The program has also helped
to coordinate the successful effort to bring a sewage treatment plant to the town of Suwannee.
Other SWIM programs at SRWMD include: Santa Fe River; Coastal Rivers system;
Alligator Lake; Aucilla River; and Waccasassa River.
SUMMARY: THE CARROT AND THE STICK
( Water management districts clearly do much more than regulate water and its beneficial
use. However, to focus exclusively on the regulatory function of the districts can only reinforce a
very parochial understanding of the districts' broader role and ultimate impact to Florida's social,
economic and environmental landscape.
Water districts will continue to wield significant regulatory powers and may well be
viewed primarily as "regulatory agencies" by the development community for the foreseeable
future. But a more comprehensive view of the districts public role will appropriately include
their many beneficial "non-regulatory" functions as well. For it will be the non-regulatory
missions of the districts (the carrot), rather than their widely-recognized permitting authority (the
stick) that will more fully dictate the character of Florida's water future.
There is no doubt that the sustainable economy, healthy natural environment and quality
( of life that future Floridians will experience and enjoy will be an appreciable result, in large part,
of these lesser known--but vital non-regulatory missions--of Florida's water management
districts and their many public and private partners. The choice of which tool can best do the job
is largely ours: Will it be the carrot, or will it be the stick?
Charles A. "Chuck" Padera is currently the director of water resources for the St. Johns River Water Management
District in Palatka, Florida. As director, Mr. Padera supervises a 180 member professional staff responsible for
several major engineering and environmental restoration projects. His department is also provides laboratory
services, performs water resources investigations, biological and hydrological monitoring throughout the 19-county
district. A biologist by training, Mr. Padera is active in the Florida Chapter of the American Water Resources
Association and other environmental organizations.