Water Management District
Post Office Box V 3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, Florida 33402
Telephone (305) 686-8800
Florida WATS Line 1-800-432-2045
IN REPLY REFER TO: 9270
December 28, 1982
Ms. Ane Merriam
Director, Water Resources
Institute of Science and
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida 32305
Jack Maloy sends his best and this section of the Issues
chapter of the Atlas. I've sent a copy to Jake, but thought
you would like to see that it is completed. Unless I hear
otherwise, I believe all of our writing commitments have been
Happy New Year!
Director, Public Information
Robert L. Clark, Jr.
Chairman Fort Lauderdale
Robert W. Padrick
Vice Chairman Fort Pierce
Stanley W. Hole J. Neil Gallagher
Naples St. Cloud
Nathaniel P. Reed
John L. Hundley Aubrey L. Burnham
Charles L. Crumpton Jeanne Bellamy
Miami Shores Coral Gables
IruhI n. ividNIuy, ,-u utivu ulreut
lrhn R IA-M l)v Cv,-,iitih, nirit-t,"r<
Will there be water for Florida's future?
The question is being asked over and over by more and more people. The
answer is not an easy or definitive one. Most water managers in the state feel
there will be water for the needs of all Floridians into the future, but that
the task of seeing that predication come true will not be an easy one.
This section of the Water Atlas will deal with the problems and issues
facing Floridians with respect to urban water uses, i.e. water used for drinking,
cooking, other domestic uses, and lawn watering. Urban water use may originate
from a private home well, a surface water body such as a lake or river, or it
may come from wells operated by a utility company. All of these methods of
obtaining water draw from a raw water resource. It is that resource that we
must deal with if we are to look at the issues facing the urban water user in
the.future. These issues include concerns of both the quantity and the quality
Let us deal first with the quantity issues.
--Should demands dictate production, or should there be a hold put on demands?
History has shown us that as an area becomes more settled and more affluent,
the per capital demand for water tends to increase. In addition, Florida continues
to attract hundreds of new residents and businesses each day, all calling for
water to be supplied. The question facing water managers is: should water be
viewed as a limitless resource or should some limit be placed on the amount of
water which will be provided to an area. If it is to be limited, what should be
the criterion? With a gigantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico surrounding the state
on three sides, what are the limits? The water management districts can provide
inventories of potable water sources, show the amount of water which can be
extracted safely without ruining the source, and give the local elected officials
the information necessary for living within those restraints. However, there are
deeper aquifers, possibly less accessible and more expensive to use, but should
the water managers dictate that these will not be used?
On the other hand, perhaps accessibility and cost should only be two of
the factors in the equation. Is there, perhaps, a reasonable amount of water
that any individual or business should be allowed to use? Would it be
appropriate for the water management districts to put a per capital "cap" on
the amount of water allocated to any given area?
Water conservation may never be handled quite this dogmatically by water
managers, but it is likely to hold an important part in the planning for
future development of water resources.
The 1972 Water Resources Act, under which the water management districts
received their authority and guidance to regulate water uses, dictates that a
water use must be "reasonable" in order to receive a permit and an allocation
of water. Is it reasonable to obtain a permit to waste water? Should not proper
water use practices be a part of the criteria for obtaining a permit? This is
another question water managers will have to answer in the not-too-distant-
--Can we get more out of our current utilities systems than we expect now?
Leakage and waste in utility systems are an accepted part of doing business
for most utilities. Perhaps there should be an acceptable level of "unaccounted
for" water that any utility can be permitted. Detection of leaks in a water
utility's processing and distribution system is not mandatory now in any per-
mitting programs in the state. Perhaps this is an area which needs a closer
look if we are to insure that there is sufficient water for our future urban
needs. Otherwise, utilities may continue to ask for larger and larger allo-
cations of water to make up for what is simply lost within their systems.
This refining of the system may be able to be applied on a larger scale in
the revamping of today's water systems to allow for reuse of treated wastewater.
The name itself--wastewater--indicates that it is water which is being thrown
away. In this day of more and more stress on all of our resources, is it
reasonable to throw away a commodity which could be salvaged and reused?
The science of wastewater reuse has advanced dramatically in the last
decade. The concern over viruses remaining alive in treated water can now be
dealt with adequately to ensure the protection of people's health. The only
stumbling blocks now are public acceptance and physical systems which have not
been designed to handle different levels of quality for different purposes.
It is possible that water managers will insist that future developments use a
dual system of distribution to accommodate recycled water for such things as
lawn irrigation, car washing and toilet flushing, while providing the top
quality potable water for drinking, cooking and bathing.
--How involved should the water management districts become in the manage-
ment of utility systems?
There are a number of administrative policies adopted by utilities which
have a very real bearing on how effectively they use water resources. Should
this relationship between water use and administrative policies bring their
administration more directly under the districts' eyes? For instance, the rate
structure which a utility uses has an impact on how much water is used by each
customer of that utility. If the rates give lower per gallon charges to high
volume users, the use will tend to be high. If the rate, on'the other hand,
gives higher charges for more gallons used, there is an incentive to reduce use
and conserve. Should rates be dictated by water managers to encourage water
conservation, or should some other method be found to achieve this goal?
In a similar vein, metering individual water users tends to reduce the per
capital consumption in a utility. When a flat rate is charged all customers, there
is no feeling of responsibility developed in the individual users to keep the
number of gallons down. Why should one person conserve water if he is going to
have to pay the same amount as someone who uses twice as much water as he? If
water managers are serious about protecting water resources by keeping the per
person usage within some reasonable bounds, should the districts have a say in
whether a utility uses meters or a flat rate to charge its customers for treated
--What responsibility does the water management district have in requiring
With less use there is need for less water to be treated. The less water
treated, the less energy will be used in order to purify that water. With less
water treated there will be less water taken from the aquifer or the surface water
body. This chain of events not only preserves water in its natural state, but can
reduce the stress on the state's energy resources. In addition, the long-term
investment needed to build larger water treatment and sewage plants could be re-
duced by water managers taking an assertive approach to water conservation.
But, is this the appropriate role for the water management districts? Per-
haps local governments and individual utilities and their immediate customers are
the ones to decide what the cost of water should be and how efficiently they
should operate. Perhaps it will be the water managers'role to make their facts
and options known to these agencies and let the decisions lie at the users' level.
--The questions regarding the appropriate role of the water managers with
reference to local issues will not end with water conservation. Another area of
concern is the protection of recharge areas for surface and ground water sources.
When a new airport or shopping center or residential development is proposed in
an area identified as providing recharge to a water source, will the water managers
or the local government have the final say in what priorities will take precedence?
If the new development will bring needed jobs and a boost to the economy of an
area, yet it threatens to disrupt the natural flow of water to recharge a water
source, how will this conflict be resolved?
Similar concerns regarding environmental protection of valuable natural
habitats have brought such conflicts to the attention of government agencies,
special interest groups, and the general public. The fray will likely heat up
as the quest for new lands to develop continues to expand and leaves less and
less land on the market. As the number of acres suitable for development
diminishes, the likelihood that those acres will not be caught in this conflict
also diminishes. In many portions of Central and South Florida, water managers
have already had to deal with the fact that most lands now being developed are
natural wetlands which serve as prime habitat for many species of plants and
animals which are important for Florida's environment. Likewise most of these
same wetlands are natural recharge areas for aquifers which provide water for
millions of Floridians. Little by little the recharge areas are narrowing.
When will the limit be reached? That, too is an issue to be dealt with in the
future by water managers.
Now, what about the water quality side of Florida's future? What are the
issues urban water users must be watching?
--Is saltwater intrusion an inevitable part of living in a coastal community
or can the water management districts take steps to insure that saltwater is not
a problem in the future?
Saltwater is probably the most pervasive and most devastating "pollutant"
Florida water managers must deal with. Since our beaches are what attracts many
people to the state, most of the intense development which has gone on in Florida
has been in coastal areas. The ever-increasing number of people drawing larger
and larger amounts of water from the ground pull water levels down and encourage
saltwater to move inland. In addition, development along the coast usually re-
quires drainage of land. This drainage also drops water tables. This combination
of factors makes the threat of saltwater intrusion a constant concern for water
managers. Monitoring programs, regulation of withdrawals from wells in coastal
areas, structures placed in canals to hold freshwater higher inland are all
techniques water managers can and are using to keep saltwater from moving further
inland. Are there other things to be done? Should drainage programs along the
coast be looked at in terms of their effect on the freshwater levels in the
\ ~)1~1~~_~~_ 1~1_1~1*_~1_____~ 1
--Is there a problem developing because of the shorter lag-time between
the time water enters the aquifer and the time it is removed? Can we maintain
the high quality of Florida's drinking water if the water is allowed to remain
in the aquifer for only a short period of time? Water managers do not fully
understand the natural processes which go on in an aquifer, but they do have some
knowledge of the cleansing effects that percolation of water through limestone
and sandstone rock have on water as it remains in the aauifer. If we pull water
out of the ground as soon as it enters so that we may fulfill the increasing
demands on a limited source, are we sacrificing some of the quality which can
only be obtained by having it lie undisturbed in the ground for some length of
time? This concept will have to be thoroughly studied by geologists and hydrolo-
gists before we will even know if it is a real issue that must be contended with.
--What measures must water managers take to assure that pollutants do not
enter groundwater or surface water sources.
Runoff from farms, city streets, parking lots and other areas makes its way
into the raw water source. Often the discharge from sewage treatment plants is
part of the makeup of the recharge to a water source. Seepage from landfills and
from hazardous waste sites can make its way into the groundwater or into a surface
water body. What steps will water managers have to take to assure Floridians that
the water they pull from their private wells or the water that comes from their
utility will be the purest possible, that contaminents will not remain even after
normal water treatment methods have been used?
All of these pressing questions are on the minds of water managers as they
deal with the future of Florida's urban water picture day in and day out. The
issues they will be dealing with in the future are simply extensions of issues
they have identified in the past and are dealing with presently. They only become
more refined and harder to solve as they become more sophisticated.