Title: Economic Leaflets; The Watershed Act: Its Application to Florida
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00002927/00001
 Material Information
Title: Economic Leaflets; The Watershed Act: Its Application to Florida
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: Bureau of Economic and Business Research, College of Business Admin. U of F, Gainesville
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Richard Hamann's Collection - Economic Leaflets; The Watershed Act: Its Application to Florida
General Note: Box 12, Folder 1 ( Materials and Reports on Florida's Water Resources - 1945 - 1957 ), Item 41
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
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Bibliographic ID: WL00002927
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Published monthly by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, College of Business Administration,
University of Florida, Gainesville. George B. Hurf, Editor.
Signed articles are prepared by Faculty members. Other materials are supplied by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The views
and opinions expressed are those of the author and are not to be construed as official views of the University.
VOL. XV, No. 2 Entered as second-class matter December 6, 1941, at the post office at FEBRUARY 1956
Gainesville, Florida, under Act of August 24, 1912.

%he Watershed c7lct: Its JApplication to Florida

J. E. DOVELL, Professor of Political Science
W. F. TARLTON, Administrative Assistant
Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District

Within recent years many persons have been concerned
with some phase of the water problem; either a super
abundance of water at one time or a severe lack of water
at another time. The Yearbook of Agriculture, 1955, Water
S notes that "most of us are conscious nearly all the time
of the importance of water in our lives, but actually our
' knowledge of it is pretty skimpy. We cannot live with-
out water; we could live better if we knew more about
it." But our memories are short for when the rains come
we forget about the dust bowl and when the rains fail we
forget about the floods.
Until 1900 the common American tendency was to
exploit the land and its resources of soil, timber, and
Water. With the advent of the 1930's, however, the
S seriousness of the problems aroused the nation and many
of the states to action. In 1935 Congress adopted the Soil
Conservation Act and in 1936 the Flood Control Act.
These laws became the base upon which subsequent poli-
cies have been built.
Increasing uses for water in all walks of life, together
With- the increasing population, are now straining the
readily obtainable sources of water in many sections of
the country and posing similar threats throughout the
nation. The Hoover Commission Report on Water Re-
sources and Power stated in June, 1955, that "as of 1950
about 180,000,000,000 gallons of water were being with-
drawn from the ground, lakes, and streams each day for
use on farms, in cities and businesses of the United States.
Roughly, this amount of water would fully meet the daily
requirements of 180 cities, each the size of New York
The problem of water resource use nationally is but
a projection, in the composite, of the problems in the forty-
eight states locally. Florida. with a land area of 54.861
square miles possesses an additional water area o 3f 80
.square miles. The state's TF m-ajor springs have pro-
S vided a combined daily now oif .6 billion gallons of
water, or an amount equal to f per cent of the frNsh

Water Resource Problems and Programs
Recognition by the national government of the deteri-
orating water resource situation in the United States and
public concern over the problems involved has been speeded
by several factors. These include the spectacular and
disastrous drought of the 1930's, the recurring floods in
the several sections of the country, the great demands
of World War II, and the increasing population. This
concern in the area of water resources development is evi-
denced by a continuing series of congressional enactments
since 1936. The Reclamation Act of 1939 continued fed-
eral aid to the irrigation of arid areas in the West; the
Flood Control Acts of 1938 1944 _ald Aubaeeentears
cont nue( limited federal aid for the etiai~nuoLpratea
tie works in affected_ areas; and various acts expanded
federal activity into multiple-purpose projects such as
the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power
As early as 1905 the federal government began par-
ticipating in water resource conservation. Federal activ-
ity ranged across the nation, from the arid lands of the
West to the swamps and overflowed lands of the South.
Through such agencies as the Crs f Engineers of the
Army, the Bureau of Reclamation o eepa ent of/
the Interior, and the Soil Conservation Service of the/
Department of Agriculture, large..nmWers of dams, leaves,
canals, and other water control works 1awa hson -
strcted. Underground and surface water levels were
raisZeflood stages were minimized; and electric power
was made available in increasing amounts.
Meanwhile, in Florida there was much discussion of
water resource problems and programs, but little public
or private action toward positive water control programs.
True, the state had begun a program of draining the
Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee as earl as 1906.
Water resource programs in loria lagged far behind
because of the large areas of the state which remained
unsettled and undeveloped until recent years.
Prior to 1940 the flooding of large sections of the
state had brought little damage. Floods occurred in 1929
in areas of South Florida; in 1933son tne oIi 'aio-ria

Sent free to Florida residents requesting name on mailing list. Additional copies 3c each.

V* '-7 "0-- AA

_- 9

Withlacoochee rivers and St. Johns and Kissimmee rivers; drainage divide that separated the waters flowing into
an d in 928a id- 9297, olthe Suwannee River. After different river systems or into different seas, as the Con-
1940 much of these areas had beniliroughtlifnto cultivation tinental Divide in the American West. The term "water-
and they have assume;r increairngi Tmportance in the shed area" was used to describe the drainage basin of a
state's economic structure. The consequent increase in single river or stream. In recent years "area" has been -_
th- vaifrtuof -heset~ l an-i'if-the products raised thereon dropped and tershed has come to mean the same thing
has focused attention on the desirability of flood con- as the drainage basin of one riverior streiam.i ---
trol and water conservation programs. The National WatershedCoigress regards a watershed
In 945, the Florida Legislature enacted legislation as all of an area which drains all of its water into a
proviSgBfor the creation of county water conservation single stream, lake, or other catchment. Thus, large
d i iellans'id Dade counties. Working in co- watersheds are usually composed of several smaller ones.
operation with the Pinellas County Soil Conservation Dis- From another approach those areas adaptable to inte-
trict, the_~inellas Water Conservation Board has con- rated eineeri as a ma r unit constitute a
structed shallow earthi-aimilin local drainage basins to wa sd. Important in the last two decades is the
impound fresEh water r sieroirs"~ and assure aiTi-ae- idea of a watershed as a "community" concept. A recent
quate water supply for the -uiim~p]ilities along the-Gilf report of the Watershed Congress states that "a watershed
beaches--f-the-- county. Soil and water conservation is more than a geographical or engineering term. It
measuresTaveinot only increased the returns to farmers includes the people, the wildlife, the industry, and the cul-
and growers but have also eliminated breeding places for ture of an area. It is hardly debatable that local water
sand flies and mosquitoes, provided a measure of frost control should be for the benefit of the community
protection for surrounding agriculture, and increased and can seldom be justified except as a part of other
facilities for recreation and wildlife production. community needs. It therefore follows that organiza-
The Water Conservation District for Dade County was tion for water control should be on a common as.
empowered to determine and maintain water levels in all n 7 I TTnited States communities have been settled
fresh-water streaiiis, canals, lakes, and reservoirs within and developed along the watersheds of the larger rivers
the-district by means of dams, locks, flood gates, dikes, and then along the smaller rivers and streams with great
anid-oher -acilif es- and to cooperate with local, state, dependence on water transportation. In water resource
an-federal agencies in water control and supply pro- use and development, the communities where water control
ects. The activity of the Dade district has been r has been necessary have usually followed the smaller
/to-tat of the Pinellas District in many respects. watershed configurations. That problems and solutions
t that o i l n e vary from one region or section to another emphasizes
A disastrous ln 1947 covered over 5,000,000 acres one of the advantages of the watershed mnon -t "the
in Florida from vo usia County south rd to onroe custom built" plan for the individual sstem. Again
County. The wes-ernsectiois-of Miami and Ft:.Lauder- quotig-frf -f ~ie--a-esed Congress Report: "The art 4
dale and twenty other towns were flooded from days to and practice of watershed development and management
weeks. Roads, railroads, and airports were flooded with requires more than a working knowledge of the inr
resulting disruption in the transportation of supplies and acting effects of climate, physiography, soils, vegetation
/evacuation of man and animal; the flood damages alone and human use upon water behavior The land is a com-
/agpa 1 0.
e facht ater plex of many factors and the task is to understand the
The fact a e after resource problem was an all- intimate relationships between land conditions and the
Florida concern was disastrously demonstrated in 1948 behavior of water. Water falling upon the land behaves
when the Suwannee, uill.,Ochlocke and mI-- behavir o wter. WaterAulling othelandbehaeo
when the Suwannee, Aucilla, Ochloc~kone. and .Ai differently from watershed to watershed. Each water-
cola rivers flooded large areas, andJlu.ny sectip. oqf h shed must, r re, e eat with individual is
northern and western part of the state were isolated. n under te waters once a eac loca area can
Transportation in or out of Tallahassee to other parts deveop its ow custm mBun
of the state was by boat or by air. Flooding also occurred
ini fhat y-ear irf ackson -ounty, and in the Orange Lake Development of the Watershed Protection Program
basin of Marion, Alachua, and Putnam cgjntie. The development of the watershed concept of water
-lT-the years after 1900 some 80 local drainage s- resource management can be traced through a long his-
tric a been orga nizea Florida ess war story of state and national actions. In 1867 a commission
m rih ricultural lands. Flood control measures and of the Wisconsin Legislature reported on the relationship
surface drainage to improve these lands channeled most between forest cover and stream flow. An 1890 order of
of the water to the rivers and the sea. As such ro- the President of the United States creating the first
,/grams lowered the water table, there was introduced a national forest reserve was an early recognition of water-
Ss egn e or n~~ai n T'tht fin r shed protection. In the 1930's many state and federal
Florida ranked fiftenth among e states In acrege trI- laws were enacted for the provision of funds and ad-
gated and was firstinthis category of thestates east of\ ministrative services to develop, improve, and conserve
the Mississippi River. The result has been a raadc!i land and water resources. The Federal Soil Erosion
depletion of the ground water supplies when periods of Service Act of 1933 and the Soil Conservation Service Act
reduced rainfall and irrigation demands coincide, of 1935 were examples of this trend. The Flood Control
S'The reduced water table, in turn, has allowed salt-water Act of 1936 recognized watershed protection as supple-
intrusion into water sup o the lower east mental to the construction of major works for down-
and west coasts oi th s e. The powered water tables stream flood control. As a result of surveys made under
iav~e contributed to agricultural and wildlife losses and the 1936 act, programs for watersheds were authorized
further resulted in the need to relocateseveral municipal in 1944 for eleven basins totaling some 30,000,000 acres.
water-well fields. The removal of.xcess rainfall and its National interest, from 1933 to 1953, was concentrated
preservation for periods of drought is one of the challeng- on resource planning for major river basins similar to the
ing problems facing water resource management in Flo;r- Missouri, Columbia, and Tennessee rivers. The movement
ida. was toward multiple- ep oseIr uertakings since soil
The Small Watershed Concept l hanlingP measures -iust be fully considered in relation to
Through the years the term watsre d has changed wat-n r rnrservation. wildlifP hydr7f al-nt.z e and otherre-
somewhat in meaning. Historically, the word meant the source factors. While the major river basin is advan-

tageous as a unit for the over-all planning of navigation
projects and multi-purpose dams for flood control, irriga-
Stion, and power, the major projects have sometimes lost
sight of the individual needs of farmers, growers, and
^ ranchers. In the small watershed can be found the real
copmnity of. enter nd
water rsfu1nr "w'"e the residents apsse a sense of
common welfare and mutual concern.
The watershed protection, or treatment, program spans
Sthe gaps in a comprehensive technical program for the
thousands of individuals who may be involved. The small
$ watershed program helps solve problems within the boun-
daries of the river or stream basin rather than in politi-
cal subdivisions and finally recognizes that national re-
source problems are but the summation of the myriad
problems of the single watersheds. A recent report notes
that "recognition of the small watershed as the primary
unit of resource development, management, and conserva-
* tion having to do with water, soil, and related resources is
reflected by the formation since 1945 of nearly a thousand
watershed groups, associations, and legal organizations."
The people who live on the small watershed initiate the
action for the protection program and participate in the
development of the work plan. Local organizations make
application for the projects and take part in financing
9 and constructing them. The entire nroeram is hqia d on
the premise that these enterprises are to be local nri-
ects with federal participation, not federalpr with
local partipaon
Action Under the Watershed Program

Total expenditures on the eleven original watershed
projects, until 1954, were $41,600,000 in federal funds
and about two-thirds of that sum in matching state and
\ local funds. In 1953. $5,000,000 in federal funds wa- madp
available to the Soil Conservation and Forest Services to
naugurate a program of sixty pilot "small watershed"
projects as a means to ind ways of developing local-state-
federal artnership annin ndcarry out a water-
shed protection and flood prevention program. The success
of the pilot program encouraged th!e congress to pass
Public Law 566, the Watershed r tion and Flood
PrevenlUTIo Act, which authorizes the Secrtary o As'iul-
t e to cooperate witn local organizations in watershed
proection programs.
The proportional share of federal, state, and local
interests in watershed units obviously varies. The varia-
tion depends on several factors including benefits derived
downstream, the area of public lands involved in the
watershed, and the relationship with over-all state and
national resource goals. Improvement programs on small
watersheds can provide protection, in a degree, against
floods, erosion control, reduction of sediment, and further
tend to prolong the effectiveness of downstream improve-
ments. The smaller programs supplement the larger
program in providing local rural and urban flood con-
trol, mutual irrigation waters, drainage facilities for
creeks, local water supplies, pollution abatement, better
wildlife habitats, stabilization of eroded lands, and other
"water conservation measures." Evidence of the interest
in water supplies is borne out in movements, in roughly
half the states, to improve existing laws on property
rights in water and to enact laws enabing state and local-
governmets to promote water n land resources pro-
The Eighty-Third Congress also amended the Water
Facilities Act of 1937, and amended the Internal Revenue
' Code of 1954, all in the area of general water re-
S sources legisato n amended water Facilities legis-
lation is now applicable to the entire forty-eight states,
including in its scope all soil and water conservation

laws. Under the amended Water Facilitie tlS the
Secretary o gricultZ authorized to make or to
insure loans up to 2b,uuu bor individuals or aou,uuu
for local organizations to carry out needed water re-
sources improvements. Local financilrg-r ay--Fe -accom-
phse through taxation and the sale of bonds or revenue
certificates. Under the amended law, bank loans, guar-
anteed by the Secretary of Agriculture, might be secured
for short term financing and thus hold down total costs
by reducing interest charges. The amendment to the
Revenue Code, Section 175, allows many expenditures for
conserving soil and water resources to be deducted from .
gross income. This legislation supplemented existinglaws
and under the Watershed Act provided ways and means
whereby local interests and owners can cooperate with
federal and state agencies in watershed improvement and
flood control through coordinated effort.
The Watershed Protection and Flood prevention Act
of 1954 created the machinery under which the national /
government can cooperate with local organizations in
planning and carrying out measures for flood prevention
and the various phases of the conservation, utilization,
and disposal of water. Projects must be initiated in the
locality where the work is to be done. The local organiza-
tion may be a state or local governmental unit, soil or
wa-ter conseriva-i-o district, flood prevention or control
district, or any other authority recognized under law.
Apprcations for federalasssi nce i"uniertUT law must
be processed through proper state agencies or the gov-
ernor if no agency is available. The local organization
must provide all lands for control works construction,
must assume a share of the cost of the construction, and
must agree to operate and maintain improvements. The
proportional share of the costs of construction are deter-
mined by the Secretary of Agriculture on a benefits-
derived basis. Size of watersheds that may b~ a t
under the law is limited to 250,000 acres, although sev-
eral contiguous watersheds exceeding that figure may
be coordinated and planned together.
To November, .1bb, no actual work had been started
under the Watershed Act although 402 applications had
been received, of which 110 had been approved. Some 25
watershed' work plans are expected to be presented to the
1956 Congress. Some criticisms of the program center
around the problems o securing almost unanimous ap-
proval locally and th delays secure arova f
applications by state and federal aeencip eson erned.
Further criticism has developed in regard to the cost shar-
ing provisions which, when compared with other federal
water control programs, may involve greater local con-
Application to Florida
The 35.000.000 acres of land in Florida are divided V
into more than 50 stream basns on _.40 to cubic
mjles r' abl annually. Yet the water re-
sources problems of the state have become increasingly
complicated with some of the most destructive floods
and some of the worst drouts i t Oneyear
much of the flat sections and river bottoms of the state
may be cover W wateriinthe-next the residents must
close windows to keep out the heavy smoke from muck-
fires. Floods in 1947 and9c g were most destructive
Tet the drou --t-ot65 brought record lowsin th flow
of rivers and in the levels of lakes, many of which were
drying up.
The 1955 Florida Legislature established a Water Re-
sources Study Commission to investigate, to conduct re-
search, and to report on the water resources problems
of the state. This Commission has been organized and is
currently engaged in preparing a report for the 1957
Legislature. The Commission consists of two senators and


two representatives from the Florida legislature and three
members from the state at large. other things the
Commission has been directed to determine the need for a
comprehensive water law ana a stufdyF oj'i iEien d oa
new water policy in t te.
The watersheds of Florida, some in regions where the
average elevate varY unuly few ichea mile,ar-often
poorly deTined andW'i litso6ewhatrnebttous boundaries.
Eistig lakes can be used as caricc"hasif~- and storage
areas where practicable. Under the watershed protection
program the land must be treated to retard the run-off,
increasing the in onand water holding capacity of
the soil. The management of the flow of water that
becomes run-off in Florida then revolves around its poten-
tial storage in a reservoir or conservation area for future
use. Obviously, the flat terrain of Florida does not pro-
vide narrow deep valleys for use as reservoirs; 9o;a
servation areas for water in Florida are commonly wide
and shallow.
Although the rate of water evaporation is roughly
proportional to the surface area of water exposed, actual
evaporation depends on a complex of factors including
degree of exposure, relative humidity, wind conditions,
temperature, negative cover, and the presence of adjacent
water. The exhalation of moisture by plant life or the
transpiration rate is closely tied to the evaporation rate.
As a result combined figures, called evano-transpiration
rates, are often used to determine land treatment meas-
ures for run-off and "insoak" purposes. For the follow-
ing locations in 1954 are shown annual water evaporation
rates (measured from an open pan continuously contain-
ilg'water): Belle Glade, 62.95 inches; Ginesville 6.46
and Vero Beach, 55.92. Annual total rainfall for the
same period at Bellaelade was 54.18 inches, Gainesville,
36.24, and VeroEBeachn..J2. Obviously, corrective ac-
tors must be used as a basis for hydrologic studies in
watershed treatment planning, but tie to high -Ate of watr
evaporation in Florida are most significant m rodi
reservoir areas.
Watershed protection development programs in Flor-
ida, must perforce be planned on the rate of absorption
of water by the soil on which the rain falls. The earth
is the greatest reservoir and the FInrida pnlan us
arlsange t..soi water onservatin problemsthrbujji
the "insoak" principle of und rrnnd water storage
A good example of insoak waer -atm may be
found in the Washita Valley program in Oklahoma. Of
a total area of 5,000,000 acres, five sub-watersheds,
totalling 100,000 acres have received treatment. In May,
1950, a two-day storm deposited 13.5 inches of ram on
one of the watersheds, yet here was no downstream
flooding. In a laoma, under Tconditions, an insoak
of' nc pr hour as eenobt' i ent.
Under normal condtions an insoak of 2 to 3 inches per
hour can be obtained. Undoubtedly the insoak condi-
tions of Florida soils would vary considerably from the
Oklahoma example, but the principle is excellent for Flor-
( ida watersheds as a means of rechargin the ground

The type of land treatment anticipated under the
small watershed act would have beneficial effects for many
of Florida's rivers and streams. The best results would
probably be obtained near the hnadwM J M Ja
streams and on the slopes of the well-definAd Alaqo.n In
the peninsula, proper treatment of the ridge area from
Clerro-tfflto 'ebtritg r"ould"-lMIelp"ireu fooding In'tilt-e
Kissimmee and Pece rivers and also relieve, to som_ s
extent, the recurring drought conditions in the two val-
eys. Along poorly defined watershed divides, such as the
eastern extremity of the Kissimmee watershed, protec-
tive measures would entail farm ponds, small reservoirs,

and canal controls. On the flat terrain of the Ever-
glae sth feh aLakehe annd er
conservation areas will serve the game nurn se as frm
ponds or small marsh storage areas while the sonialand
engineering conets of th w hed n will be
as valid for this large area as anywhere else. In the
OckIawaiha River watershed the residents have accepted
tKe idea of a local project with possible federal partici-
pation and are proceeding to develop water resource plans
largely on their own initiative.
Th first local-state-federal water resource project in
Florida, not including navigaon projects, was authorized I
in 1930. The 9 Florida Legislature had established the
O ehobee ltd Control District in parts of the 6
Kissimmee- Okeechobee- Everglades watershed and the
Caloosahatchee River watershed as a result of the flood
damages which accompanied the 1928 hurricane. Theed-
eral government, in cooperation ih the Okeechobee Dis-
trict, built levees, hurricane ates deepene ot efai-
nels, and installed other flood control works to prevent
furiTher damages from high waters after 1930. Following
the 1947 flood, the!J'^lorida Legislature established the
Central and Southern Florida Flood Uontrol District, coy- "
ering all or part of seventeen southeastern counties. In
cooperation with the federal government and local gov- *
ernments in the area the Flood Control District is carry-
ing out a comprehensive plan for water resource control
in South Florida. Water control works are being in-
stliled in the great Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades
watershed and the headwaters of the St. Johns River for
flood control and water conservation in the most rapidly
growing regions of the state.
With the adoption of the 1954 Watershed Protection
and Flood Prevention Act the possibility now exists that
local citizens within the state may band together and or-
ganize groups to secure some federal participation in
working e water resource ems of the m-
mediate sections. Critic-al flood and water control areas
exist in the basins of the illsboro, W l hee, Suwan-
nee an oer rivers and could probably be developed
under the small-watersed protection program.
How Watershed Programs are Started

The Watershed Protection Act provides a means by
which the individual citizen can, through his own action,
get help through group effort to effect a conservation job
that affects more than one landholder and which the in-
dividual cannot do alone. A significant purpose served
by the watershed approach is the return nf thi co trol
of-water resources to the local level of government. Proj-
ects can be started under the watershed act when local
residents recognize their problem and secure the assis-
tance of a local organization, such laza-si7jWwC as-
tion district, to sponsor their appcaton to the Depart-
ment of Agriculture for aid under the waters aw. t /
Uroup action is often begun by a few leaders in the com-
munity who join together to start the job on its way. An
observer has noted that "this has been the genesis of
most of the hundreds of watershed associations formed
since 1945. The associations are mainly educational and
promotional organizations, dedicated to informing the pub-
lc about watershed problems and solutions."
wnen local public understanding and support have
been secured the local movement is ready for an action
program. Sustained community effort to maintain interest
must be continued. If the appcation s approve by
sate and federal agencies, renresentatlve of the Soil
Conservation Service survey the problems and the pro-
gram is underway. There is little doubt but that this
annrnanh win bnnr benei toour gatura% TPna
theresidents of the watersheds, and to the nation as a


P r

r ~~~- ---



Published monthly by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, College of Business Administration,
University of Florida, Gainesville. George B. Hurl, Editor.
Signed articles are prepared by Faculty members. Other materials are supplied by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The viem
and opinions expressed are those of the author and are not to be construed as official views of the University.
VOL. XVI, N 1 Entered as second-class matter December 6, 1941 at the t o e atJANUARY, 1957
Gainesville. Florida, under Act of August 24, 1912. JANUARY, 1957

WCater Rtesources cWanagement in Florida

DAVID B. SMITH, Director
Florida Water Resources Study Commission

Florida first evidenced state-wide interest in her water
resources in 1944. Late that year Governor Holland and
Governor-elect Caldwell appointed a citizens' committee
to study Florida's fresh-water situation and to frame pro-
posed legislation embodying corrective measures. The
committee held a series of fact-finding hearings in the
state and submitted its report to Governor Caldwell in
1945. A proposed bill was drawn and submitted to
the 1945 Legislature. The bill failed enactment, but the
1947 Legislature established the Water and Survey and
Research Division within the State Board of Conservation
* to function as the state agency responsible for matters
on the conservation of water and the control of floods.
The 1955 Legislature dissolved this agency and turned its
0 files over to the Florida Geological Survey.
At the instance of the then Governor Nominee, the
Honorable LeRoy Collins, another citizens' water problem
study committee was organized on September 29, 1954.
0 This committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. J. Abney
Cox, held several fact-finding meetings and reported to
Governor Collins on March 1, 1955. As a result of that
report, Senate Bill No. 377 was submitted to and adopted
by the 1955 Legislature. The act declared, for the first
time, a water policy for the state of Florida. The act
also recognized the need for an over-all evaluation of the
water resources of Florida, and for this purpose the
Florida Water Resources Study Commission was created.
a Shortly thereafter, the Commission was organized with
Mr. Byron E. Herlong of Leesburg as its chairman; the
other members being Mr. James A. Ball, Jr., of Belle
Glade, Mr. B. W. Helvenston, Jr., of Live Oak, Senator
Doyle E. Carlton, Jr., of Wauchula, Senator H. B. Douglas,
of Bonifay, Representative Roy Surles, of Lakeland, and
Representative Harry W. Westberry, of Jacksonville.
Water Problems
In outlining its program the Commission felt that a
~ survey was essential to determine the problems which local
users were experiencing day by day in attempting to put
water to beneficial use. The members felt that it would
be desirable to have problem inventories made in each
county of the state, and early in 1956 the Commission

formed a water problems committee in each county in
order to obtain this information. Committee chairmen
were selected in each county, and they in turn determined
a time and a place for each county committee meeting,
and issued invitations to everyone in the county to at-
tend and participate in the committee operation.
More than 130 chairmen gave freely of their time in
organizing and conducting the county studies, often with
considerable sacrifice of time and money. In all, over
1,300 people attended and participated in the local water
problems inventories. In most of the counties, those ac-
tive on the committee represented most or all major fields
of water use. They included representatives of several
state organizations, and state and federal agencies con-
cerned with water use, businessmen, farmers, lawyers,
industrialists, professional men, and others. By mid-
July, the county inventories had been completed and re-
ports were received from every county in the state. All
recorded problems that have or may have legal, adminis-
trative, or economic implications were then extracted from
the reports and summarized. A similar but more limited
problem inventory completed in 1954 by the Florida As-
sociation of Soil Conservation District Supervisors was
also studied by the Commission. The county water com-
mittee reports represent what is thought to be a typical
cross section of the state's water problems, but no as-
sumption is made that the reports constitute a full and
final catalog of such problems in Florida. A few examples
illustrate the types of problems recorded.
The report of the Highlands County inventory group
mentions a matter which is rather typical of problems in-
volving lake level control: "In 1954 a control and spillway
were constructed between Lake June and Lake Frances
and the channel of Josephine Creek was cleaned. Result:
Considerable lowering of water table in Lake Frances
since source of supply to the lake was controlled but dis-
charge from the lake was wide open. Property owners
feel in projects of this nature all features should be com-
pleted, as failure to do so results in injury to certain
The Volusia County committee reported on a situation
where increasing uses of water for beneficial purposes

Sent free to Florida residents requesting name on mailing list. Additional copies 30 each.


are creating complex problems: "Municipalities along
the coast are concerned over the future competition for
water from the underground aquifer. Daytona Beach
has already installed a well field five miles to the west
from which 8 million gallons per day are withdrawn.
Additional water use in the area west of the city could
decrease or pollute the water supply, damaging existing
supplies. Overpumping could cause salt water intrusion."
Other counties felt that such problems would occur in the
near future.
The difficulties resulting from improper water manage-
ment techniques are illustrated by a problem listed in the
Walton County inventory: "Construction of dams has
raised the water level in the soil, killing trees and making
land too wet to cultivate even when free water did not
overflow on lands above the dams. Also, the normal flow
of water in streams has been curtailed or stopped due to
construction of dams."
It is common knowledge that in Florida we have been
plagued from our earliest history by problems arising
from excess water. At first, problems of flooding were
most common. Later, as the economy of the state ex-
panded, problems of removing excess water--drainage-
from agricultural and other lands and as a health measure
assumed greater importance. Problems of this type will
continue in the future in some localities, as is indicated
by both the 1954 and 1956 studies, although considerable
progress has been made in Florida in combating flood
problems and providing needed drainage facilities. Prob-
lems arising from attempts to put water to beneficial use
were relatively unimportant a few years ago, but are
now becoming increasingly more common. Both studies
emphasize this fact, but it is strikingly revealed in the
recent study. In the 1956 inventories, problems of use
were reported by many counties. The inventories clearly
point up the fact that problems of use are likely to be-
come increasingly prevalent in future years, especially
in certain communities. The summary of these problems
also indicates that problems of development, use, conser-
vation and protection of our water resources vary in com-
bination from area to area in the state.

Water Laws of Florida
As a background to a r6sum6 of Florida's water law,
it is important to understand the basic differences between
the riparian system and the one of prior appropriation.
The riparian system as originally developed holds that
lower riparian owners are entitled to the full flow of a
watercourse, so that upper riparian owners may not alter
the flow of such a watercourse, except to make use of
the water for purely domestic purposes. This rigid and
antiquated system has been modified in many eastern
states by what is known as the reasonable use doctrine.
This modification allows upper riparian owners to make
beneficial use and diversions of stream flows to the extent
that these do not unreasonably interfere with the benefi-
cial use of others. The prior appropriation system allows
both riparian and nonriparian owners to appropriate the
right to use as much water as they can successfully di-
vert and beneficially employ, provided their appropriation
is prior to that of others. Florida follows the riparian
system with the reasonable use modification, insofar as
water from surface watercourses, including lakes and
ponds, is concerned. Most western states apply the prior
appropriation doctrine to ground water as well as water
from surface watercourses. Many eastern states apply
what is known as the English Rule, based on the concept
that he who owns the surface owns to the center of the
earth, and consequently has an absolute right to with-
draw all of the percolating water that he can from his
subsurface holdings, without regard to the effect on ad-

joining owners. Some eastern states on the other hand
have applied the reasonable use doctrine to ground water
as well as surface water. Under this doctrine, no limita-
tions are placed on the quantity of water to be taken so
long as the use is reasonable and made in connection with
utilization by the owner of the surface. But if the water
is to be transferred to other land, the transfer will be
prevented if the withdrawal is detrimental to a neighbor's
extraction and use on his own premises. Florida is seem-
ingly committed to this reasonable use modification both
as to ground waters and water from surface watercourses.
There is considerable Florida law dealing with the
definition of riparian land, but this law is concerned pri-
marily with the method of acquiring title to land abutting
on natural watercourses, rather than the amount of land
on which water from such watercourses can be used. This
leaves a serious gap insofar as the problems of irrigation
are concerned, since, under the riparian doctrine, water
from natural watercourses can be used only to irrigate
riparian land. Under this approach a tract of land de-
tached from a riparian tract and no longer touching on
a stream loses its riparian status, while additions of in-
land tracts do not make such tracts riparian. Problems
of industrial and municipal use also arise under this doc-
From the viewpoint of the Commission's study, the
most important right of a riparian owner is the right to
make use of the water. There is very little general law
in Florida dealing with consumptive use of water from
natural watercourses, but what there is indicates an
adoption of the reasonable use modification of the natural
flow doctrine. There are provisions in the Florida statutes
for erection of dams for power purposes, a nonconsump-
tive use, but there is as yet no legislation concerning the
erection of such dams for irrigation or other consumptive
purposes. In periods of drought such as the state is
presently experiencing, numerous practical problems exist
as a result of the erection of such structures. In an im-
portant case in 1927 the Florida Supreme Court indicated
by dictum that floodwaters from natural watercourses,
being of no substantial benefit to a riparian owner,
" .may be appropriated by any person who can law-
fully gain access to the stream, may be conducted to land
not riparian, and even beyond the watershed of the stream,
without the consent of the riparian owner and without
compensation to him." This case may provide the legal
basis for the collection and storage of excess floodwaters
in the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Dis-
The police power and the power to act for the general
welfare set forth in the Florida Constitution provide
justification for numerous Florida drainage laws. The
most important of these is the General Drainage Act of
1913, authorizing the formation of drainage districts on
approval of the circuit courts of the state. The legisla-
ture has also provided for drainage by counties, and for
drainage of swamps and overflow lands upon petition of
the board of county commissioners of any county. In
addition, special legislation has been enacted for numerous
counties in the state creating many types of special dis-
tricts affecting water use and control. These include
drainage districts, inlet districts, improvement districts,
mosquito control districts, navigation districts, water sup-
ply districts, and irrigation and soil conservation districts.
Consideration of the Florida laws governing lakes and
ponds is made somewhat more difficult by lack of a judi-
cial or legislative definition of the terms lake and pond.
The term lake is usually taken to mean a reasonably per-
manent inland body of water substantially at rest in a de-
pression in the surface of the earth. Some jurisdictions
distinguish between natural lakes and artificial lakes made

I I __ _~_~_~_ _____ _

by damming or diverting of streams, but it is not clear
whether the Florida court would recognize such a distinc-
tion. Lakes are distinguished from ponds primarily be-
cause of their greater size. Legally the distinction is im-
Sportant only when the lake is of such a size as to be con-
S sidered navigable. In general the law governing non-
navigable lakes extends to and includes ponds. If a lake
is nonnavigable, its waters are subject to private owner-
ship, and consequently those who own the surrounding
land may not only exclude nonowners from the lake, but
may also make such withdrawals as they see fit, providing
all the owners can agree on these withdrawals. But if
such an agreement cannot be reached, withdrawals can-
S not be made so as to work a detriment to others owning
land on the same lake. In the case of navigable lakes,
the court has indicated that riparian owners may prevent
the lowering or raising of the water beyond the natural
limits of low and high watermarks. The 1954 and 1956
problem surveys indicate numerous instances of indi-
vidual action resulting in lowering of water levels, and
S this problem has become more serious during the current
drought. In addition to the common-law right to prevent
the lowering of a lake beyond the low watermark, the leg-
islature has prohibited the drawing of water from lakes
of greater area than two square miles so as to lower the
level of such lakes without the written consent of all
owners of property abutting upon the lake.
As in the case of so many important terms in the field
of water law, apparently neither the Florida Supreme
Court nor the legislature has so far attempted to define
diffused surface waters. They are generally considered to
be waters resulting from falling rain or those rising to
the surface in springs, which have not yet collected in a
lake, pond, or natural watercourse and are still in diffused
state or condition. The principal diffused surface water
problem with which Florida has concerned itself to date
has been the disposal of such water. There are two
opposed doctrines in other jurisdictions concerning the dis-
posal of unwanted diffused surface water. Under the
first of these, the civil law rule, an upper owner has an
easement in a lower owner's land for drainage of diffused
surface water in a natural manner. Opposed to this is
the common enemy rule under which the lower owner may
* take any measures to keep the water off his land, even to
the point of turning it back on the land of the upper
owner. The Florida court has not yet expressly adopted
either rule, but the decisions tend to follow the civil law
rule requiring the lower owner to allow drainage of the
upper owner's land.
The courts have divided ground water into three cate-
gories: (1) underground streams; (2) artesian waters;
and (3) percolating water generally. If the existence of
a definite underground stream is established, the law with
respect to surface streams is applied to the underground
stream. Definite proof of the existence of such a stream,
flowing in a well-defined channel, is necessary however,
as there is a legal presumption that ground water is per-
colating water in the absence of such proof. This pre-
sumption greatly reduces the legal significance of this
category of underground water. Artesian waters are a
type of percolating water which rise above the top of a
water-bearing bed. The factual studies reveal that a
serious problem in connection with artesian water in Flor-
ida is that of waste due to unregulated flow from artesian
wells. General legislation now exists in Florida, however,
under which members of the Florida Geological Survey
and county sheriffs can take action to prevent this waste.
A 1956 case aligns Florida with the reasonable use modi-
fication in regard to the withdrawal of percolating ground

In the past Florida has periodically had temporary
excesses of water, so that our problems have been prob-
lems of disposal rather than problems governing water
use. With the tremendous increase in Florida's popula-
tion, problems of irrigation, pollution, and salt water in-
trusion in coastal areas, compounded by several years of
drought have created problem situations for the resolu-
tion of which the courts have no guideposts. Changes
obviously should be made in the law so that the water re-
sources of Florida may be put to the most beneficial use
of which they are reasonably capable, and so that waste
and unreasonable use may be minimized. The solution is
not necessarily the drastic legal change from the riparian
system to the system of prior appropriation. The very
fact that the change would be such a drastic one would
create political as well as legal difficulties in obtaining
passage of such legislation. An additional factor which
would militate against a change to prior appropriation in
Florida is that Florida seemingly regards riparian rights
as property rights even though such rights are not being
actually used at the moment. Traditional recognition of
these rights gives riparian lands in Florida a value which
they would not possess under other circumstances. A
change to the prior appropriation system, under which
all water is necessarily owned by the state in its sovereign
capacity, would destroy the additional investment of ripar-
ian purchasers represented by such rights. Such a de-
struction, if attempted without compensation for each
riparian owner, might well be held to constitute a taking
of private property without just compensation, and viola-
tive of both the Florida and the United States constitu-

Physical Aspects of Florida's Water Resources
The most striking aspect revealed by the Commission's
study of Florida's water resources picture is the quantita-
tive and qualitative variations. Although Florida is a
water-rich state, there is ample evidence to show that
most of the state's fresh-water supply could be put to
beneficial use with uniform temporal and spacial distri-
bution. However, the supply is not obtained at a uniform
rate, and it is this factor of variability that necessitates
water management operations-to dispose of temporary
excess waters that cannot be conserved and to conserve
water during periods of temporary excess for use in times
of drought.
All of Florida's surface and ground waters originate
with rainfall on the state and on western Georgia and
southeastern Alabama. Throughout the area precipitation
conditions are quite varied both in annual amounts and
seasonal distribution. Annual averages range from as
high as 66 inches to as low as 45 inches, while extreme
values have exceeded 100 inches per year and have been
less than 29 inches per year. Seasonal distribution further
accentuates the uneven rate of supply. About two-thirds
of the annual rainfall occurs in a four-month period, which
in some areas does not coincide with the time of greatest
need. A majority of the supply is consumed by evapo-
transpiration. Under experimental conditions the rate
of evapotranspirative loss on a summer day has been
measured at 0.15 inches per day, a rate that exceeds the
average daily rainfall in most areas. Under natural con-
ditions this rate is not maintained continuously, since
optimum water content is not always present in the soil.
Yet for agricultural areas this high water transport must
be maintained to obtain top crop yields, and water control
must be practiced to supply that amount which precipita-
tion fails to provide. In 1956 about 16,000 water control
systems were operated in the state, supplying almost
750,000 acres of productive farm land with irrigation

About 23 per cent of the water received on watersheds
common to Florida moves to the ocean via surface chan-
nels. In its transit the surface water forms 12 large river
basins and innumerable smaller ones and is often tem-
porarily stored in upwards of 30,000 lakes. The flow of
this water averages some 40 billion gallons daily but the
actual flow reflects the rate of rainfall with some time
lag. The ratio of minimum to average to maximum
gross flows of the state's streams is 1:5:120, thus illus-
trating the temporal extremes of surface water distribu-
tion. The spacial distribution is also poor. For example,
more than 88 per cent of the average surface runoff is
found in only five rivers-the Apalachicola, the Choctaw-
hatchee, the Escambia, the Suwannee, and the St. Johns.
Spring flow, an indication of the quantity in ground stor-
age, also reflects rainfall variations. In 1956 the gross
minimum flow from nine large springs showed a reduction
of 36 per cent below average flow. The quantity of
ground water is large, however, and there has probably
been no general permanent lowering of the state's water
tables or piezometric pressures. The most serious ground
water problem is salt water intrusion resulting from
localized heavy withdrawals by municipalities and indus-
tries in combination with overdrainage of surface areas
whereby the recharge of the underground aquifers is de-
creased. In addition to quality deterioration from salt
water intrusion, municipal and industrial pollution have
decreased the quantity of usable ground as well as surface
water in some trouble spots. An aggressive and sound
pollution abatement program, administered by the state
board of health, has done much to prevent the water pol-
lution problem from becoming general, but the continued
growth of population and industry in the state will neces-
sitate an enlargement of the program to keep the problem
under control.
Another factor that points up the need for water man-
agement in the state is the concentration of water usage.
Most of the requirements must be met in relatively small
areas of intensive agricultural efforts, high population
concentrations, or heavy industrial consumption. An in-
ventory of present and future water use by major category
shows the following:
1956 Water Use 1970 Water Use


(million gallons daily)
1,182 2,200
2,227 3,420
494 790

The fourth major water user is the recreational cate-
gory, but quantitative valuations of the amount of water
used for recreation purposes are not possible. Instead,
this use was measured in terms of dollars expended for
boating, fishing, and hunting in the state's fresh-water
areas. It was estimated that $381,000,000 was spent in
1955 for recreational use of the state's fresh-water re-
sources, thus showing the importance of this type of
beneficial water use to the state's economy.

Study Commission Recommendations
At the conclusion of its fact-finding operations and
with the help of suggestions received at public hearings
in Miami, West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers, Tampa, Pensacola,
Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Orlando, the Commission

formulated its recommendations to the 1957 Legislature.
They are:
1. That a comprehensive water law be established in
2. That the law preserve insofar as possible the ex-
isting rights of water users in Florida as developed by
our present statutes and case law.
3. That in the law a set of legal definitions be in-
cluded so as to clarify existing water law and the rights
of our people thereunder.
4. That a department be established under the state
board of conservation to administer the comprehensive
water law and to assure the fullest utilization of the
state's water resources by research, planning and imple-
mentation. Further, that the board be instructed to make
periodic recommendations to the legislature for suitable
programs and legislation based on the board's findings.
5. That the board be authorized to exercise regulatory
powers over the use of the state's water resources only
after full public hearings are held and a determination
made that such regulation is necessary in the general wel-
fare. Further, that such regulatory powers include the
following functions:
a. To authorize the capture, storage and use of
waters, including floodwaters, in excess of existing
reasonable uses; and to authorize the diversion of such
waters beyond riparian or overlying land; and
b. To establish reasonable rules for conservation
of water in regions where diversion of surface or un-
derground waters exceeds or threatens to exceed the
natural replenishment of such waters or to render
them unfit for use by reason of salt water intrusion or
other causes.
6. That provision be made for appeals to the courts of
Florida from decisions of the board.
7. That a program be established by the board to
provide the public with useful and current information on
the activities and findings of the board and its cooperating
8. That the board be authorized to cooperate with fed-
eral, state and local agencies and with water use organi-
zations in Florida, when such cooperation will contribute
to the realization of the over-all water policy developed
and administered by the board.
9. That the board be authorized to require permits for,
and establish conditions with respect to, all artificial
weather modification attempts within the state.
10. That a state agency be instructed by the legisla-
ture to investigate the beach and shore erosion problem
in Florida and to make recommendations concerning the
desirability of establishing comprehensive beach and shore
erosion protection laws.
11. That funds be made available to complete such
mapping in Florida as is necessary to determine the major
hydrologic areas of the state.
The Commission believes that legislative acceptance
and implementation of these recommendations would
clarify the legal picture of water rights in Florida and
would form a sound foundation upon which a reasonable
and proper water management program for the state can
be constructed.



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