In a June 16 memo to water management districts, DEP staff gave direction consistent with the Scott administration approach to restrain efforts to plan for and protect water resources. The memo limits the districts in several areas including land acquisition, wetlands mitigation, water conservation and regulation of water supply and environmental resources. Meant to provide direction consistent with Governor Scott’s politically motivated budget cuts, the memo redefines the role of the water management districts away from water resources.
Of particular concern to Audubon of Florida is the absence of direction to help preserve water from overuse. In the middle of a drought that has been made worse in South Florida by over-consumption of water supplies and failure to restrict water use, the memo fails to mention the important roles water districts must play in pushing permitted users toward water conservation.
The memo also pushes the districts away from investing public funds in projects that may help to preserve water recharge. The memo has a disturbing sentence that links capital and reserve funds to water supply planning. Hopefully, DEP has not taken the position districts should only invest capital funds in water supply as opposed to restoration and recovery of damaged water resources such as the Everglades.
“Districts will also need to provide a coherent explanation of the relationship between funds held in reserve and their relationship to the districts’ short, intermediate, and long-term water supply plans.”
Water management districts have an equal role of preserving water for the environment – this is done through land conservation and management as well as restoration projects.
**Update: Audubon supporter John Moran sent in this photo to show the drought at Peacock Springs in North Florida: