AIF’S Florida H2O Coalition began when members from the Florida Water Alliance, the Florida Water Quality Coalition and AIF’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria Task Force recognized the need to look at Florida’s major water challenges holistically as opposed to reacting to individual water quality and quantity issues as they arose. The core of the Coalition’s mission is to identify key state and federal water issues and advocate for science-based solutions that are both economically and technically feasible, and which balance the needs of Florida’s businesses, residents, and our environment.
AIF’s Florida H2O Coalition uses the following guiding principles in the establishment of positions on proposed water legislation and rules:
Central Florida Water Initiative: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) projects the state will need an additional 1.3 billion gallons per day by 2030. For example, in a five county Central Florida area it is projected there will be a ground water shortfall of roughly 250 million gallons per day. The Central Florida Water Initiative (CWFI), an effort led by the largest three water management districts, estimates it would take a nearly $3 billion investment to address the shortfall. It is critical to secure the funding commitment and to get the policy correct so CFWI is successful, predictable, and strikes the unique balance of supporting the natural system, existing legal users, as well as meeting future water needs.
Dispersed Water Storage: In South Florida, water managers continue to explore new, non-traditional water storage alternatives to address excess rainfalls. One such successful example is the investment in the Dispersed Water Storage (DWS) program. The DWS program allows the water management district to execute agreements with private landowners to store water on their property. A recent Martin County project is designed to store an estimated 2.2 billion gallons of water.
In addition, the state continues to make significant investments in Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) as well as other water storage projects which provide water quantity and quality benefits to Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and the entire South Florida water management system.
Minimum Flows and Levels: In North Florida, declining groundwater flows have forced water managers to work with stakeholders to update long-term water supply plans. In addition, some groups have used this opportunity to challenge existing Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) established for springs and rivers in the area.
Reclaimed Water/Potable Reuse: Although Florida is recognized as a leader in the utilization of recycled and reclaimed water, the state continues to wrestle with new and existing alternatives to encourage a larger reliance on reclaimed and recycled water sources. As technologies improve and the economic feasibility of these sources becomes more palatable these sources will be essential to alleviate pressure on traditional water sources.
As the state and country continues to address the balance between potential human impacts and protecting our natural resources, Florida’s businesses, farmers and local government utilities will continue to face many state and federal water quality challenges.
AIF’S H2O Coalition was formed and earned its early battle scars advocating for a science-based Florida solution to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria. Using the lessons learned from the early days, the H20 Coalition is actively engaged in the following water quality issues:
Waters of The United States (WOTUS): Initially adopted under the Obama administration, the WOTUS rules significantly expanded the interpretation of “navigable” waters and the nexus between those other water conveyances to cover traditional non-federal waters such as farm ditches, and intermittent creeks and streams. Under the Trump administration, the previous WOTUS rules were repealed and replaced with a new version that addressed many of the shortcomings of the Obama administration’s rules. In the revolving door of politics, the Biden administration has made clear their intentions to repeal the Trump administration rules and to formally adopt a new version of “WOTUS”.
Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades: The greater Everglades system has been in a cycle of plentiful rainfall for several years. Prior to the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, excess rain forced discharges to the east and west of Lake Okeechobee, exacerbating nutrient levels in the delicate coastal ecosystems. Thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, the state has made huge financial commitments to focus on infrastructure and projects which can store water on the north side of the Lake, pushed to finish the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs east and west of the Lake, and utilized proven technologies such as Aquifer Storage and Recovery wells to manage the system and meets the needs of the environment, agricultural, industrial, and residential users alike.
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule: The Army Corp of Engineers is actively updating the regulation and operations schedule for Lake Okeechobee. The Lake’s regulation schedule in 2000 balanced the authorized uses for the Lake including water supply, environment, recreation, and navigation. In 2008, the regulation scheduled was temporarily amended to lower the Lake to allow repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike. Commitments were made to preserve the regulation schedule from 2000 when the Corps completed the repairs. Today, the Corps is developing a new plan for Lake regulation. The Corps chose a plan which they believe best balances the needs of all stakeholders, but the plan raises concerns about whether the Corps will meet the commitments to restore the regulation schedule that existed in 2000 and concerns about the state’s authority to continue making critical water supply decisions.
State Assumption of the Federal 404 Permitting Program: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) maintains the most comprehensive water quality database in the country. Based on Florida’s unique geology and hydrology coupled with the scientific and technical expertise employed by FDEP, the agency sought delegation of the federal wetland permitting program created by section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The Florida Legislature gave FDEP the authority to pursue and assume state responsibility for wetland permitting under section 404, and FDEP assumed responsibility for the program in December 2020. FDEP’s expertise and resources are currently being applied to resolve a significant backlog of applications under the program. The H2O Coalition will remain an active partner to help FDEP successfully administer this delegated program.
2020 Clean Waterways Act: This state legislation comprehensively addressed many areas of Florida water law including septic to sewer conversions, administration of the septic tank regulation program, mandatory updates to the state’s stormwater rules, agricultural best management practices requirements, and regulation of biosolids. Each of these areas has the potential to impact Florida’s business community and residents. The H2O Coalition remains actively involved with FDEP and other agencies to ensure any new rules or regulations are attainable, scientifically based, and economically and technically feasible to implement. This includes working with the state’s Chief Science Officer and the Blue-Green Algae Task Force to assist in the development of solutions and strategies which maintain the balance between protecting our natural systems and the needs of Florida’s business, residents, and visitors.
BECOME A MEMBER OF THE COALITION
Membership in AIF’S Florida H20 Coalition is FREE. We invite interested parties and individuals that share in our mission to make science-based recommendations for state and federal water issues to join AIF’s Florida H2O Coalition today.