Revisiting Today's Taboos in Water Resource Management

Material Information

Revisiting Today's Taboos in Water Resource Management


Subjects / Keywords:
Water management ( jstor )
Waterways ( jstor )
Highlands ( jstor )
Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida


Revisiting Today's Taboos in Water Resource Management
General Note:
Box 8, Folder 6 ( Vail Conference, 1996 - 1996 ), Item 13
Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.

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Source Institution:
Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location:
Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Revisiting Today's Taboos in Water Resource Management

Water resource management practices in Florida have evolved over the last 50 years from
the highly-structural methods of the 60's to the less structurally oriented approaches of
today. Large canals and massive pump stations were the tools of choice for the early water
managers of this state. Today, water managers are using extensive natural areas and broad
weirs for conveying flood waters. There are obvious reasons why these changes have
occurred. The water management projects of today often include goals that earlier water
managers did not consider. The methods of the past are no longer desired by a society that
values clean water and fish and wildlife protection.
More recent shifts in thinking have occurred, however, that make previously unacceptable
management methods permissible. Examples of these include: offsite mitigation of
wetland impacts, cash payments in lieu of wetland mitigation creation, less than fee
acquisition for land preservation, habitat trading (wetlands for uplands), and mitigation
banking. Today, public resource managers are not only accepting these methods but are
becoming advocates for them.
What are the current taboos? Why are they not accepted? Should these be the new wave
methods for water managers of the next century? This paper explores a few ideas and
discusses their application in some of Florida's unique natural systems. With the current
mantras of "Ecosystem Management" and "Do More With Less," government must learn
to operate with the shackles of conventional thinking removed. To do so, water managers
must begin to "think outside the box."

In-system Treatment Systems
During the last decade, government has implemented the public's desire to restore the
state's degraded waterways via three principle mechanisms: prevention of further
degradation through required treatment of new discharges; development of projects aimed
at improving the quality of existing systems; and development of pollution load reduction
goals that in certain instances require the structural retrofit of existing private discharge
It has been the conventional practice to look at treatment strategies for non-point pollution
discharges that use mechanisms upstream of the receiving water body. Whether it is a
government-sponsored restoration or treatment system, or a required private retrofit.
necessary to meet a pollution load reduction goal, the cost associated with the construction
of these systems is greatly influenced by the value of the land necessary to develop the site

for the chosen method. Land needs and costs vary considerably, depending on the chosen
methods of management. The real estate expenses associated with treating the municipal
discharges into Biscayne Bay from downtown Miami, for instance, certainly exceed the
land costs associated with a treatment system necessary to handle the urban discharges to
Lake Harris in Lake County. Table 1 lists the general value of real estate in selected basins
in Florida. These values are nonspecific and reflect relative magnitudes of valuation.
Just as real estate values differ geographically, so do the environmental conditions of
watersheds. Additionally, the consequences associated with allowing the degraded aspects
or additional degradation of the waterway to continue vary. This variation is reflected
socially, economically, and environmentally. The continued decline in the health of
Florida Bay, the St. Johns River or Indian River Lagoon arguably could have global
implications. However, the total ecological collapse of Banana Lake, a SWIM water body
less than 200 acres located in Polk county, would have a minor impact on the aquatic-
dependent ecological and social aspects of the region and an almost unmeasurable regional
economic impact. (SWIM is an acronym for the Surface Water Improvement and
Management program, a Florida legislatively created effort to protect and restore Florida's
surface waters.) There are many examples of these variations and if one accepts that such
variations should be considered when approaching water management, then a one-size-fits-
all view of management is unacceptable.

In the case of the treatment of discharges, the conventional approach would be to provide
for treatment to occur outside the receiving water body. Figure 1 illustrates the typical
pathway a water management treatment system would follow. The treatment to some
desired standard would occur "on site," that is, outside the waterway and on the property
from which the discharge originated. In the situation of a government-sponsored
restoration or treatment system, the mechanism is somewhat the same; however, the
property is usually a public acquisition but still upland of the managed waterway (Figure
2). In such a case, the discharge that is treated is usually from properties away from the
treatment site. In either case, land is used to effect the management option that is upland of
the receiving water body. In both cases, whether privately or publicly sponsored, land
costs are a significant expense and in some cases is the limiting factor that affects whether
the desired management action occurs in a timely fashion or at all.

Conventional thought suggests that treatment of discharges must not occur in the public
waterways but on private or public uplands, or created or restored wetlands. To
accomplish the conventional approach requires land. These lands are usually converted
wetlands that are or were privately owned and are made available for the intended purpose