THE DEVELOPMENT AND APPLICATION OF
SOUTH FLORIDA, THE EVERGLADES, AND
THE FLORIDA SUGAR INDUSTRY
Presented By: Alex Fanjul
Prepared By: Dr. Peter Rosendahl
Dr. Dave Anderson
Historically, US Federal and state government policies have encouraged extensive
drainage and hydraulic modifications within the region to foster this development.
By the early 1900s, these efforts had allowed the rapid development of agriculture
in the northern Everglades adjacent to Lake Okeechobee, which subsequently
supported the evolution of the Florida sugar industry. During this decade
environmental restoration and conservation efforts have changed water/wetland
management policies. Currently, the impacts of agricultural land use on the
environmental and ecological health of adjacent wetlands of the Everglades are
being assessed. Policies that once favored development are now being reversed by
policies and regulating efforts to restore natural ecosystems. The Florida sugar
industry and other agricultural interests are adjusting to more stringent
environmental standards and policies. This paper outlines the historical and
current changes in Florida's physical and political landscape and how the sugar
industry is adapting to these changes.
2 Chapter twenty
System Description Landscapes and Boundaries
The historic Everglades region comprises 19,400 km2 of land encircling Lake
Okeechobee and extending to the southern end of the Florida Peninsula (Davis,
1943; Jones, 1948). As a linked system, the Kissimmee River Basin is also
considered part of the Everglades ecosystem (SFWMD, 1990). Discussions
regarding contemporary Everglades restoration efforts often refer to the 1856
Military Map (US Congress, 1911) that portrays both officially surveyed and
anecdotal information of the region prior to large-scale development. Today, this
region can be divided into a number of landscapes (Figure 1): (1) the northern
watersheds of Lake Okeechobee including the Kissimmee River basin; (2) the
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA); (3) the Everglades Protection Area,
consisting of water conservation areas (WCAs) and the Everglades National Park
(ENP); (4) the Atlantic coastal ridge on the eastern coast with sandy flatlands, (5)
the interior uplands of the Big Cypress Swamp; (6) the southeastern urbanized
regions including coastal estuaries; (7) Whitewater Bay and southwest Florida
estuaries; and (8) Florida Bay. Extending southward of Florida Bay are the Florida
Keys and coral reef formations.
South Florida is characterized by poorly drained soils with many marshes and
sloughs. Water moves through a network of canals and water control structures
managed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers. Surface water from Lake Okeechobee moves east
through the St. Lucie Canal to the Atlantic Ocean, west through the
Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf of Mexico, and south and southeast through a
number of lesser man-made canals (West Palm Beach, Hillsboro, North New River,
and Miami Canals) to the Everglades Protection Area and Atlantic Ocean. Lake
Okeechobee is used for the storage of freshwater and flood control. The lake is
surrounded by a dike to prevent storm surge flooding resulting from hurricanes and
heavy rains during the wet season. Inflows, except for the Fisheating Creek, are
controlled by man-made structures, such as locks, gates, and pumps.
South Florida watersheds receive an average of 1320mm rainfall per year, with
regional variations ranging from 965 to 1651mm. Late May through August is
the hot rainy season, and November through March is cooler and drier. Large
areas are inundated with water for periods ranging from 1-12 mo each year. The
soils in the northern watersheds of Lake Okeechobee are principally Spodosols
with alluvial and organic soils in the Kissimmee River basin, where cattle, dairy,
citrus, vegetables, and small grains crops are the principal agricultural
commodities. Soils in the EAA are predominantly Histosols formed from the
decaying remains of sawgrass (Cladium jamaciense) and other marsh plants
accumulated under historically flooded conditions (Anderson, 1990; Izuno and
Bottcher, 1994; Davis, 1946). Land in the EAA (210,229ha; SFWMD, 1996) is
primarily used for the production of sugarcane, vegetables, horticultural sod, and
rice, of,which 25% of the sugar and 40% of the winter vegetable demands of the
United States are produced. Sugar production alone contributes over $1 US billion
revenue annually to the south Florida economy (Polopolus and Alvarez, 1991).
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy ... 3
Figure 1. General map of south Florida and the Everglades today.
4 Chapter twenty
The Everglades Protection Area consists of marsh areas typically inundated
with water 9 to 12 months each year, and soils range from peats and sands to rocky
soils. Mangrove swamp areas are found along the fresh and salt water boundaries
of Biscayne Bay, the ENP, Florida Bay, and the southwest coastline. Urbanized
areas such as Miami have grown tremendously during the last decade, taking over
unprotected wetlands and estuaries bordering the ENP. Rapid urban expansion has
also occurred in the western and southwestern coastal areas. Demographers
forecast that the current (1996) urban population of 7 million will increase to over
20 million by 2020. Florida Bay has been affected from diminishing supplies of
freshwater and urban pollutants along the Florida Keys (NOAA, 1995). Prior to
the construction of canals and water control structures, 80% of south Florida's
surface freshwater moved slowly from the Kissimmee River basin into Lake
Okeechobee and eventually into coastal estuaries adjacent to Whitewater Bay and
Florida Bay (Davis, 1943). Today, 80% of the surface freshwater is diverted to the
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico by conveyance canals and rivers (Larsen, 1994, 1995).
Extensive roads and urbanized developments also restrict overland flow of water.
Thus, the historical Everglades has dramatically changed with respect to the
quantity and timing of freshwater it receives (Mclvor et al., 1994).
Treated as many landscapes forming a unified ecosystem under multiple land
uses, the Everglades is an important water resource both for nature and man. The
Everglades ecosystem has been negatively impacted by freshwater shortages,
pollutants from urban and agricultural areas, and various recreational uses. The
Everglades is a source of water for agriculture, urban uses, industry, and
recreation. Thus, the development of integrated water management plans must
consider the balance between a viable Everglades ecosystem and a sustainable
south Florida for agricultural, urban, and industrial sectors. Balanced policy
development and management are essential to protect these valuable resources for
all users, including the preservation of natural habitats.
The earliest and most comprehensive scientific investigation of Everglades
hydrology was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (Parker et al., 1955),
which described drainage conditions and hydraulic changes through the 1940s.
Later publications by Parker (1974), Tebeau (1974), and Light and Dineen (1994),
summarize many of the pervasive hydrologic changes in south Florida and the
Everglades. A more quantitative study of hydrologic changes was reported by
Larsen (1994, 1995) using results of the South Florida Water Management
District's Natural Systems Mathematical Model. It documents current annual
discharges exceeding 2.5 billion in' of freshwater to the Atlantic Ocean. This is
over and above the historical (1900 to current) easterly discharge of 0.9 billion m3.
Correspondingly, freshwater flows to the Everglades National Park were reduced
from 1.5 billion m3 to only 0.6 billion m3. These hydrologic changes have
negative ecological consequences to the Everglades and downstream estuaries.
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy... 5
Intense development within the historic Everglades ecosystem during the past
century has had major environmental implications. This includes development of
the Florida sugar industry since 1928 (Figure 2). Channelization of the Kissimmee
River, construction of roads and canals, and the agronomic and urban
development in south Florida have greatly reduced wetlands (SFWMD, 1990). In
reclamation efforts spanning more than 100 years, wetland drainage projects were
executed for flood protection and agricultural endeavors. Improved flood
protection allowed for more intensive cattle and dairy production in the northern
Kissimmee River Basin region with consequent increased inputs of P to Lake
Okeechobee (Ritter and Allen, 1982; SFWMD, 1992 a,b; SFWMD, 1993b).
Environmental concerns led to early development of "Best Management Practices"
(BMPs) for the cattle and dairy industry north of Lake Okeechobee and agronomic
operations in the Everglades (Anderson and Flaig, 1995; Bottcher and Izuno,
1995). In recent years, reduction of wetland area acquisition of environmentally-
sensitive lands (Cox et al., 1994).
U.S. Sugar Corp. Bryant (1962)
Sugarcane Growers Coop. of Fa. (1962)
Talisman Sugar Corp. (1962)
900 1924 1932 i\ 94019
1900 1924 1932 1940 194i
rades gar Rfiner Inc (1965) a
...... ......... ........ 80e
81956 1964 1972 1980 1988 1996
Figure 2. Growth of the Florida sugar industry (data Florida Sugar Cane League,
As a result of hurricanes in 1926 and 1928 that led to the destruction of much
property and loss of life, Lake Okeechobee was encircled by a muck levee to
protect surrounding urban centers and agricultural endeavors. This levee was later
improved with crushed rock. During times of drought the Lake is a source of
freshwater for areas south of it. Today, sports and commercial fishing industries
also benefit from the Lake. Management of lake levels is essential for a number
of water users. However, there are conflicts between lake management for
providing adequate storage to meet downstream user needs (lowering water levels)
........................ NV ................
6 Chapter twenty
versus desires to also maintain marshlands within the lake (maintaining higher
water levels). These issues have important economic and environmental
consequences and are currently being reviewed by resource managers and policy
makers, environmentalists, and private landowners.
Within the EAA, sugar and vegetable operations depends on a hydraulic farm
infrastructure consisting of canals, pumps and levees which were constructed and
are operated by farmers. Water is eventually pumped from private land holdings
to a publicly-operated regional system for ultimate conveyance to the Everglades
Protection Area and ENP. Concerns surrounding the drainage of waters with
elevated P concentrations into oligotrophic marshes of the Everglades Protection
Area and ENP prompted the Florida legislature to pass the Everglades Forever Act
of 1994. The Act set time lines and funding mechanisms for the construction of
16,187 ha of stormwater treatment marshes (STAs). The STAs will be designed
to reduce P discharge concentrations to 0.050 ppm prior to entering the Everglades
Protection Area and ENP (Nolte, 1992). Research efforts are underway to
determine P concentrations in water which will not cause an imbalance to the
fauna and flora of the Everglades. If this determination is scientifically defensible,
this concentration will become the new water quality P standard. If a
determination is not made by the year 2002, then 0.010 ppm total phosphorus (TP)
will be adopted as the standard. Interestingly, this is well below the 1.00 ppm TP
standard set for waste water treatment effluent and non-point runoff in water basins
adjoining the Great Lakes; 0.05 to 1.00 ppm TP for combined primary and
secondary wastewater treatment systems; 0.650 ppm nationally for highway and
road runoff; 0.180 ppm for improved pastures north of Lake Okeechobee; 0.090
to 0.110 ppm for Lake Okeechobee; and 0.048 to 0.090 ppm in regional rainfalls
(Sedlak, 1991; SFWMD, 1992b, 1992c, 1993b; WPCF, 1990; 1991). Farm
drainage waters in the EAA are expected to meet or exceed the concentrations
listed above, including rainfall. The future P concentration standard set for the
EAA will be the lowest water quality standard to be set for any industry in the
world. At present, it is highly questionable whether STAs alone will be able to
reduce TP concentrations sufficiently (Kadlec and Knight, 1995; WPCF, 1990;
p.228) without supplemental technologies such as chemical treatment.
The Everglades has been reduced to half its original area and lies adjacent to
expanding urban centers and downstream of the EAA farms. The Everglades
wetland ecosystem was reduced and altered by federal/state drainage and flood
control projects. Wading bird populations have been reduced 75% to 80% (from
1934 to 1976), as an indicator of the declining health of the Everglades (Frederick,
1992; National Audubon Society, 1990; Ogden, 1994). A major effort is underway
by federal, state, and private interest to restore the Everglades through water
quality improvements, hydrological projects, and sensitive lands acquisition (SOR,
1996). The reestablishment of "sheet-flow" is planned for the upper Everglades,
and the need for increased "storage" is recognized. Detailed hydrological studies
have concluded that tremendous volumes of freshwater which are essentially
wasted through large discharge events into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Along the heavily populated lower southeast "gold coast" of South Florida, urban
stormwater runoff (2.5-3.7 billion m3) currently diverted to the ocean could go to
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy ... 7
the lower Everglades (Larsen, 1994, 1995). This has limited the productivity of
coastal mangrove areas where wading birds once nested in great numbers (Ogden,
1995). Increased freshwater supply for the Everglades is being sought. There have
been proposals to capture water west of the urban centers of the lower southeast
coast and to capture flood discharge waters from Lake Okeechobee within storage
areas located on farms in the southern EAA.
Bays and estuaries which eventually flow to the Gulf of Mexico are located
downstream of the Everglades. Between the Florida Keys and mainland Florida lies
Florida Bay, a troubled ecosystem which in recent years has experienced declining
sport and commercial fishing and massive algal blooms (NOAA, 1995).
Hypersaline conditions have resulted from diversion of freshwater south of Miami
and poor exchange rates with the adjacent Atlantic Ocean. A correlation between
greater than normal rainfall and improved estuarine bay conditions is additional
evidence that suggests the need for increased freshwater flow (NOAA, 1995).
Lower freshwater levels, breaching barrier islands, and degraded water quality
have negatively affected estuarine systems along the entire fringes of the lower east
coast of Florida (SFWMD, 1993a). The Florida Bay, Florida Keys, and coral reefs
have been affected by: excessive boating, fishing, extended land use, recreation,
and poor water quality related to urban and boating pollutants (NOAA, 1995).
Essential issues for the management of Florida Bay and the Florida Keys that are
being addressed are: growth management, marinas and boat discharges, water use
and re-use, dredge and fill, domestic wastewater, uncontrolled stormwater, canals,
and zoning (NOAA, 1995). Because the EAA is distant and not hydraulically
connected to these regions, EAA farm nutrient pollutants do not affect on
ecosystem health of Florida Bay, Florida Keys, and barrier islands.
Soil Subsidence Concerns
In Florida, sugarcane is largely produced within the EAA on organic soils
(Anderson, 1990). These soils are characterized by an organic epidedon overlying
limestone cap rock or sand. Subsidence is a loss of soil volume and mass resulting
from shrinkage, compaction, and biological oxidation of organic matter. Loss of
surface elevation occurs when these soils are drained. Since 1900, many areas of
the EAA have lost from 2.7-4 m of surface elevation. Substantial losses of soils
have also occurred as a result of fires and erosion (wind and water). Subsidence
rates of 2.5-3.8 cmyrf' have been recorded (Stephens, 1969; Stephens and Johnson,
1951; Tate, 1976). Volk (1972) reported that 58 to 73% of subsidence are due to
microbiological oxidation caused by heterotrophic bacteria and fungi. Subsidence
of organic soils has a somewhat predictable environmental consequences for N and
P release into surface discharge waters and the disappearance of soil sufficient for
future crop production. Both issues are important in discussion of the
sustainability of the Florida sugar industry.
Various methods of stopping or minimizing soil subsidence have been widely
discussed. Both short-term and long-term flooding reduce or eliminate subsidence,
but with less than desirable effects on sugarcane production. The use of sugarcane
8 Chapter twenty
varieties tolerant to high water tables and flooding has been studied to a limited
extent (Porter etal., 1991; Glaz, 1995). Additions of copper and other compounds
to the soil may also inhibit or slow microbial activity (Mathur, 1983). Fanning on
soils less than 10cm deep over crushed rock has also been considered.
Unfortunately, the economic and environmental practicalities of these methods
have not been determined.
Continued soil subsidence in the EAA will have negative consequences for the
sugar industry. Although Stephens and Johnson (1951) predicted that subsidence
would reduce agricultural production 45% by the year 2000, decline in production
has not be recorded. To date, the largest losses of agricultural lands have been due
to the acquisition of over 16,187ha for stormwater treatment areas (STAs). The
industry has coped with subsidence by farming on higher pH soils, dealing with
poorer drainage by efficient water control, fertilizing to overcome micronutrient
deficiencies, selecting sugarcane varieties resistant to root diseases associated with
wetter soils, and by developing BMPs to reduce nutrient release into farm
discharge waters. Some areas in the EAA which have subsided with soils less than
15-30cm deep, and growers have developed specialized water control systems.
Also, some of these areas have been aquisitioned for conversion to STAs.
It has been observed that subsidence rates have recently diminished and are not
constant. This may be a result of higher water tables currently used by growers.
Rice and other rotational crops have been used, in which 10 to 20% of the area is
flooded for 2 to 4 months during the summer rainy season. Flooding inhibits
aerobic microbial oxidation of organic soils as well as redefining the population of
heterotrophic bacteria and fungi in the soil after flooding. However, unless the
region is flooded for durations of 6 to 12 months, soil subsidence may not be
completely inhibited. If the EAA is flooded for extended periods; private
ownership of agricultural lands in the EAA may not be economical.
Phosphorus Water Quality Concerns
Phosphorus is the principal water quality concern in surface waters of south Florida
and the Everglades ecosystem. Nitrogen concentrations are not considered as an
important criteria for surface waters because of denitrification and biological
cycling in an open system. Phosphorus watershed inputs into Lake Okeechobee
originate from the Kissimmee River and various sloughs. During the late 1980s,
Fluck et al. (1992) and Boggess et al. (1995) found that 3,447 Mt P yr' were
annually imported into the watershed as animal feed, fertilizer, and human
consumables. An additional 300 Mt P yr"' originated from rainfall. Phosphorus
exports from the watershed (milk, animals, and crops) accounted for 900 Mt P yr'.
The total P imports to the Lake were 300 Mt P yr', resulting in a net watershed
retention of 90% of the net P imports.
Phosphorus loads to the EAA originate from Lake Okeechobee waters flowing
into the EAA (irrigation), rainfall, fertilizers, and soil mineralization. Phosphorus
in agricultural discharges into the Everglades Protection Area (220 Mt P yr') has
been a source of concern, despite the fact that water quality concentrations are
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy ... 9
considerably lower than urban stormwaters or non-point watershed discharges from
farming regions in other parts of the US and the world. Phosphorus originates
from suspended/resuspended sediments, mineralized organic matter, soluble
inorganic/organic P (ie., fertilizers, 5,800 Mt P yr'), and rainfall (108 Mt P yr"')
(Anderson and Howell, 1993; Anderson et al., 1994). Phosphorus mineralization
rates for the organic soils in the EAA range from 1.4 40 kg P ha'L yr"' (Anderson
et al., 1994) and account for 18,000 Mt P yr' (SFWMD, 1993b). Also, nutrient
exports from the EAA account for 1,996 Mt P yr' (Fluck et al., 1991). With this
taken into consideration, the EAA retains > 99% of the total P mineralized or
imported into the region.
Routine monitoring of surface waters leaving the EAA has shown that > 56%
of the total P (TP) discharged from the EAA is in particulate form (Table 1).
Total particulate P (TPP) is present as suspended and bottom sediments in organic
and inorganically-bound forms (Anderson et al., 1994). Biological debris such as
algae and phytoplankton contribute to this sediment load, although this source may
be of minimum importance compared to the contribution from eroded soils.
Notably, variability in P concentrations is very high (Table 1). In farm stormwater
monitoring studies reported by Anderson and Ceric (1992), TPP in farm canals
ranged from 35% to 85% of TP, with an average of 66%. Seasonal variation of
TPP in canal waters was also reported by Coale et al. (1994 a,b) and Izuno et al.
(1995), with the largest variation in particulate loads during rainfall events in
August (ranging from 20% to 52% as TPP). No differences in discharge P water
quality have been observed between farms cropped in sugarcane or in fallow (Coale
et al., 1994 b).
TABLE 1. Summary of phosphorus in EAA basin waters discharged to the Everglades
Protection Areas from 1973-1994 (Anderson and Flaig, 1995).
EAA TP (mg 1'): SRP (mg l-')t TPP (%)
Basin min. max. mean min. max. mean
SSA 0.026 0.581 0.167 0.002 0.465 0.095 55.5%
S6 0.011 0.872 0.110 0.002 0.847 0.067 61.1%
S7 0.006 1.030 0.085 0.002 0.922 0.049 57.8%
58 0.008 0.933 0.117 0.001 0.437 0.051 43.4%
Mean 0.120 0.065 56.4%
t analysis of grab or composite samples when both TP and SRP were determined on the same sample.
t TP, total phosphorus concentrations; SRP, soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations; TPP, total
particulate phosphorus (%).
Phosphorus is also released into surface waters from physical disturbances of
fire, high water, and erosion. Temperatures may fall below 0C for several hours
or longer from December through February each year. This results in damaged
vegetation and potential fire hazard. Although freezing temperatures are not
certain, the likelihood of frost damage to vegetation in many of the public lands in
south Florida is high. Also, during low rainfall periods, water control in natural
areas is difficult or impossible. Commonly, under these conditions, dry vegetation
10 Chapter twenty
is ignited by fires or lightning (Taylor, 1981; Tebeau, 1968). Each year, fires
become a significant management problem in all public lands, although fire is an
important ecosystem management tool (Bancroft, 1976; Carlson et al., 1993).
Phosphorus is subsequently released when rains and water tables increase during
May through September. As much as 0.8 to 1.6 million ha of public lands come
under threat of fire and widely variable water tables each year. These natural
events also contribute to the overall increase of P loading to the Everglades (Bayley
and Odum, 1976).
Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)
State and regional agency rules mandate use of on-farm BMPs (Rule 40E-63). A
regulatory programme was developed to reduce P loads in non-point agricultural
runoff from the entire EAA by 25% (SFWMD, 1992b, p. 63-64, Planning
Document; State of Florida, 1992). The EAA regulatory programme was
developed, in cooperation with the land owners, as a comprehensive approach to
establish and monitor BMPs (Table 2). A provision allowed for BMP credits as an
incentive to farmers to establish BMPs quickly and immediately reduce P exports
to the Everglades. This incentive is working (Figure 3).
The EAA regulatory programme was designed to be comprehensive, requiring
landowners to develop nutrient and water management plans, BMPs, and monitor
water quality from each farm. Landowner development plans were required to
include rationales for selected BMPs and time for implementation. The monitoring
plans included self-monitoring of discharge and P loads and quarterly reports of
water quality data, as well as BMP implementation.
To increase the success of the programme, EAA farm managers and field
technicians are required to be certified by the SFWMD through University of
Florida Cooperative Extension Service education and training programmes for
development and implementation of BMPs, and operation of BMPs and monitoring
equipment (Whalen and Whalen, 1996). A procedural guide to BMPs in the EAA
was developed by Bottcher and Izuno (1995). Table 2 outlines typical BMPs for
the EAA (Anderson and Flaig, 1995). Hydraulic or water management BMPs were
shown to have a greater potential for reducing P loads than were fertility practices
(Coale et al., 1994 a; Izuno and Capone, 1995; Izuno et al., 1995). Percentage P
load reductions since the early 1980s have increased to over 68% in 1996, and
likewise, EAA basin water discharge P concentrations have decreased since 1984
(Figure 3; SFWMD, 1996). This success was a result of improved land
management following involvement of the land owners in development of the
regulatory programme (Whalen and Whalen, 1994; Whalen and Whalen, 1996).
Best managagement practices requiring simple management practice changes have
been quickly accepted and utilized in the EAA. Total P loads are highly variable,
because they are greatly affected by rainfall frequency, intensity, and distribution,
independent of BMPs. Compliance with regulation has been shown to require
management flexibility to engage specific BMPs on a case-by-case basis. Although
this programme in the EAA appears to be motivated from a regulatory point-of-
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy ... 11
view, a great deal of BMP, monitoring and science developments were financed by
the industry (Anderson and Ceric, 1992; Capone et al., 1995; Izuno and Capone,
1995; Izuno et al., 1991).
Sa. 40e63 Basin Regulatory Complianc Period
2 100 1o00
S- TP% Reduction E
63%. % acres of BMP
as per Rule 40E-63 Permits
S 50 (annualized)
I 25 Required 25% EAA Basin
6 25 ............. ........
S17%5% 'liPhosphorus Reduction Level
93-94 94-95 95-96 96-97 97-98 98-99 99-00
Water Years (May 1 April 30)
1978 1983 1988 1993 1998
Figure 3. Total phosphorus load reductions (a.) and total phosphorus concentrations (b.)
discharged from EAA basin structures during 1979 through 1996 (SFWMD, 1996;
Whalen and Whalen, 1996).
12 Chapter twenty
TABLE 2. Agricultural BMPs in the Everglades Agricultural Area.t
Algal-turf for phosphorus removal Regional sedimentation basins
Chemical treatment of basin discharge waters Sediment removal from primary canals
Deep well injection Stomnwater Treatment Areas (STAs)
Limit back-pumping into Lake
Aquatic cover crop in rotation with vegetables Coordinate from high fertility to low fertility crops
Band and split fertilizer under appropriate Improve fertilizer application practices
conditions Prevent fertilizer spills into surface waters
Calibrated soil test for fertility recommendations Utilize slow-release fertilizers where appropriate
FARM MANAGEMENT BMPs
Develop surface water management control plan a develop water table control policy/plan
coordinate/educate water control personnel under temporal conditions (seasonal)
for implementing water-control plan a establish farm-specific discharge rules
Hydraulic linkage offa
Farm interior water co
pump stations, culve
Flash pumping to avoii
On-farm water retention
crops and fallow-flo
Parallel canal water se
Stormwater retention a
frequency rainfall e
Water management ml
a avoid pumping du
HYDRAULIC OR WATER MANAGEMENT BMPs
irm units/cropping areas a pump canal storage before rainfall events
ntrol structures (le., area a pump water only to the "level of risk" (ie., to
ert riser controls, etc.) the acceptable high water table level)
d discharge of soil pore a use all on-farm water storage before
a from aquatic cover a use all on-farm stored water before irrigating
od crop rotations. Water table control:
page treatment 0 temporal management (seasonal)
ending of water U optimize levels
areas during high minimize fluctuations
vents (seepage) a account for ET to assist drainage
ring rainfall events
SEDIMENT/EROSION CONTROL BMPs
Aquatic weed control (physical removal) Ditch bank stabilization
Canal bottom barriers to intercept sediment load a polyacralamides (PAM) erosion inhibitors
Canal bottom sediment load sump traps a vegetative cover
Canal cleaning program for sediment removal Expanded canal construction (sedimentation)
Chemical treatment of discharge/flood waters Laser-level production fields to reduce erosion
Cover crops/flooding to reduce erosion No-till cultivation to reduce soil erosion
Culvert placement to reduce flow/sediment Stormwater retention/seepage areas during high
transport frequency rainfall events
Culvert sumps to minimize soil erosion Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs)
Direct filtration Rock pit drainage diversions
Ditch bank berming/resloping Upstream sumps from pump intake
After Anderson and Flaig. 1995.
Principles of Balanced Water Resource Use
In concept, there are three dimensions of water management making up the "water
cube" as discussed by van Rooy et al. (1993). In south Florida, surface and ground
water issues associated with restoration of the Everglades are affecting all uses of
water. Water demands arise from urban and recreation uses, drinking water,
industry, agriculture, and nature. Developing and implementing policies that
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy ... 13
balance water resource use will be difficult.
Historically, management of ground water quantity has been the business of
national soil and water authorities. Regional or provincial authorities have been
in charge of surface water quality. Many aspects of water management fall within
the domain of district water boards, while local authorities are responsible for
collection and treatment of drainage water and waste within urban areas. Because
water systems are managed by separate management authorities, elements within
the whole system seldom are treated equally. Economic and demographic
developments have a direct influence on one or more elements within the water
system. The entire water system will be affected by the interaction between all
Water resources have specific value which should be protected for long-term
utility. Although user demands add value to the water system, each function has
its impact. For instance, recreational use of water (e.g., swimming, fishing,
sailing) requires water of high quality as well as quantity which may directly be
affected by utilization by industrial, urban, or agricultural users. However, not all
impacts are negative. Ground and surface waters are manipulated and managed
in various manners: flood/drought protection, hydro-period stabilization for nature,
storage for multiple uses and interests, or salt water intrusion protection for
drinking water. When several functions or users compete for the same water
resource, often one use may be managed while the other is not.
In reality, the total number of interests and functions which compete for the
same resource is likely to increase. Good policies and management are absolutely
essential. Without responsible policies and management, the water system would
be overwhelmed. Policy and management are directed toward water control,
urban and rural planning, and environmental protection. Water authorities'
greatest responsibility is to prioritize water use, although it may be impossible to
reconcile all demands for the same resources within a limited area and time.
Within the framework of integrated water management, prioritization is the
responsibility of both policy makers and managers. Unequivocal rankings are
assigned to each interest after weighing one demand against the other. However,
rational water use decisions have far-reaching effects, especially when past policies
for established users change irreconcilably. Water management between the 1850s
until the 1970s was directed under policies structured for flood and drought
protection. The environmental movement has changed past policies toward
restoration of the Everglades, which has thus changed how water must be managed
for all users. In these cases, policy takes precedence over management until
problems are solved through research, development, and application.
Resource User Changes
Prioritizing the use of water and setting acceptable impacts will be difficult to
reconcile. In 11 counties of south Florida, the public lands set aside for
preservation, conservation, or wildlife restoration purposes approximate 50 to 60%
of the total area (unpublished data). Acquisition of public lands has increased 15%
14 Chapter twenty
J I i 4%
1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050
Figure 4. South Florida population growth projections for 3% to 6% annual increases
from 1995 to 2050.
within the last five years (3% per year) in some counties, and public acquisition is
expected to continue (SOR, 1996). At the same time, agricultural water demands
in the EAA will decrease in time. Over 16,187 ha of agricultural land in the EAA
will be used for STAs, and during 1996, over 12,950 ha of land from Talisman
Sugar of an estimated 21,044 ha total could be additionally acquisitioned for this
purpose. Interestingly, agricultural conversion to STAs could actually increase
water use in the EAA.
Urban development of other land is also rapidly increasing in south Florida.
Population is expected to increase from 7 million to over 20 million by the year
2020. Using Lee County as an example for south Florida, between 1978 and 1985,
population increased 6% per year, by 4% for years between 1985-1989, and by 3%
for years between 1989 and 1995. If annual population increases of 4% per year
is anticipated, then 20 million people can be expected to live on diminishing land
and water resources by the year 2020 (Figure 4). Population demands for water
(e.g., recreation, drinking, industrial) will increase.
Because public land acquisition (primarily for conservation and environmental
protection) and population have both increased at similar rates during the last five
years, and that lands already in public possession are 50-60% of the total area in
south Florida, prioritizing water resources for all users will be increasingly more
difficult. Sugarcane production acreage in 1996 has expanded to 179,640 ha
(unpublished data: Florida Sugar Cane League, 1996). However, some lands
currently in production will be converted to STAs, and the total production acreage
is expected to decrease. Politically, farmers have not been strong enough to fight
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy... 15
land acquisition, farming privilege taxes (Everglades Restoration), nor various
regulations focusing on impacts on neighboring environmentally-sensitive and
protection areas. Should "zero impact" conditions be set along boundaries between
lands set aside for natural protection and other land uses, all other resource users
may be deemed incompatible with ecosystem preservation and protection.
Development of rational policies and sustainable management systems that will
protect and guarantee that all users have access to water resources in south Florida
will be an intensely debated issue well past the year 2000.
Environmental Politics and Policy
Many lasting physical changes have been made to the southern Florida landscape.
Part of the vast Everglades wetland ecosystem was transformed to one of the
highest urban growth regions in the US. The accompanying sugar industry located
between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades has also flourished. More than 100
years of federal and state policies encouraged successful drainage of wetlands for
both urban and agricultural development within the historical Everglades. Today,
the Florida sugar industry has become one of the most sophisticated producers of
sugarcane in the world. In the last five years, major sustainable and value-added
projects have been also completed which provide renewable energy co-generation
power plants and state-of-the-art distribution, packaging, and warehouse centers.
Renewable biomass energy power plants are located adjacent to two sugar mills co-
generating steam and enough electricity for 76,000 households. These power
plants burn both urban woody wastes and bagasse.
Environmental concerns originating in the late 1960s and early 1970s have
focused on ecosystem protection and restoration. Initially oriented to protect the
downstream Everglades National Park, the environmental movement now focuses
on restoring the entire remnant Everglades, including the designated water
conservation areas. The Everglades Forever Act of 1994 allowed federal
government agreements to be codified into Florida law, providing for water quality
and water distribution solutions. Stormwaters from Lake Okeechobee, urban areas,
and farming regions are to be cleaned using macrophyte treatment marshes known
as STAs and delivered to the adjacent Everglades under "sheet-flow" conditions
that simulate historical natural conditions.
A great number of environmental groups have claimed that the Everglades
Forever Act was too conservative and their own proposals typically include
appreciably larger and more costly solutions which threaten the sustainability of
the sugar industry. Another proposal involves the removal of 60,700 ha from
production in addition to approximately 16,187 ha already ear-marked for STA
construction. Such a proposal would destroy three of the seven sugar mills
operating within the region. Presidential election politics have also surfaced in this
debate, with one candidate calling for the removal of 40,468 ha of productive
farmland and taxation of the remaining farmers to purchase this land. In the press
release by Vice President Al Gore (1996), the "penny-a-pound" tax of sugar was
proposed which would financially cripple farmers. These initiatives are proposed
16 Chapter twenty
at the Federal and State level.
Farmers in south Florida have strived to be responsible environmental
stewards. Improvements in water quality and reduction of P discharged from the
region is being realized (Figure 3). Farming adjacent to the Everglades is both
politically sensitive and challenging. New technologies are being investigated to
reduce P to the part-per-billion level. Sugar farmers have embraced concepts such
as BMPs and "sustainable agriculture" and are making significant progress
towards natural resource conservation and balancing their farming livelihood with
the ecological requirements for a healthy Everglades. The future of farming in
south Florida depends on the recognition of the economic importance of the
industry and its positive efforts to protect the environment.
The first lesson is adapting to changing water management policy. At the turn of
the century, the principle thrust was to drain swamps for urban and agricultural
development purposes. Today, however, Federal and State policies lean toward
wetland ecosystem preservation and restoration. The Florida sugar industry is
caught in the middle of this transition.
Secondly, the public desire for "green space" adjacent to rapidly expanding
urban centers will continue. Expansion is focused on converting productive
farmlands to STA wetlands by reflooding. The future threat of taking additional
farmlands for water storage or treatment pumping has created an economic and
political crisis for agriculture and local government. In hindsight, if Federal and
State planners had foreseen today's crisis, ecosystem design modifications could
have been accomplished during the early design phase (1948-1960s).
Unfortunately, farmers are being held accountable for past design flaws which they
had no part in developing.
The third lesson refers to the drafting of rational legislation that is
scientifically acceptable. One consequence of shifting public policies is inevitable
legal litigation that results from changing environmental law and regulation. The
Central and South Florida Flood Control Project was authorized in 1948, well
before the National Environmental Policy Act of 1972 which set into motion water
quality criteria. In addition to successfully growing high-yielding sugarcane in the
organic soils of the EAA, this region has also yielded significant legal debate. For
Class I, II, and III waters, Florida state law (State of Florida, 1996) specifies that
"... in no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to
cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna." In the
strictest interpretation, this can be considered an intolerance law and has prompted
extensive debates between private landowners, scientists, and the State and Federal
governments. Incorporation of water quality concerns within the scope of the
original project design of 1948 would have averted costly land acquisition, redesign
and reconstruction, and legal implications currently underway.
The fourth lesson has been learned by the Florida cane growers in the last five
years. Implementation of BMP programmes have greatly improved farm water
Development and Application ofEnvironmental Policy... 17
quality discharges. Greater on-farm retention and discharge control of stormwaters
have had the greatest and most favorable affects on water quality than other BMPs
(Table 2). These programmes have been successful in achieving regulatory
objectives and improving public opinion. For sugar industries that are adjacent to
environmentally-sensitive regions (ie., the Australian sugar industry adjacent to the
Great Barrier Reef), the experiences of the Florida sugar industry should be noted.
If, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars and engaging hundreds of
scientists and engineers, a balance between agriculture and the Everglades is not
obtained, then it may be concluded that there are no solutions. A sustainable
system must have the continuity and balance between the dimensions of
environment, users, and management policy. The development and management
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