Two men planning construction

At this year's Lay of the Land Conference, The Land Journal sat down with Michael Minton to discuss water management in the state of Florida. Minton is Chair of Dean Mead's Agribusiness and Solar Energy Industry Teams. He is also a member of the Water Resource Assessment Team of the Central Florida Water Initiative, and former Vice-Chair for the Governing Board for the South Florida Water Management District.

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In the video below, we asked Minton to give us a snapshot of Florida's water systems, and this was his response:

"We have one of the finest water management systems of any state in the union. We are far ahead of most states. In some cases, we are decades ahead. With that said, Florida's growth is only accelerating, with another six million moving here over the next decade. If we don't build on our strengths and invest in much-needed infrastructure, we will never be able to maintain a sustainable water system."

The Central Florida Water Initiative, or CFWI, was established as a collaboration between the state government and the organizations that deeply impact the water supply. The CFWI includes Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, and members of Central Florida's business and agricultural communities. We asked Minton to comment on how the Central Florida Water Initiative was proceeding.

"I've been proud to represent the business community in the important work of Central Florida's Water Initiative. We've made water conservation a priority, and it's an incredible collaboration between water management districts, state government, businesses, environmental groups and the public in general."

"Right now, we are at the point where people must make some difficult decisions. We are all drawing from the same aquifer, and without any changes we are going to over-allocate the resources. One of the shortcomings of our water management system highlighted by the CFWI is that the water management districts, or WMDs, are based on surface water drainage watersheds, but the water use permits almost uniformly rely upon the same water supply source, the Floridian aquifer. As we found with the CFWI, without coordination and cooperation the WMD could over-allocate this resource, resulting in an unsustainable water system." 

Minton then went on to discuss CERP and the 2016 Water Bill. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is an ongoing effort to preserve one of Florida's most famous ecosystems for the benefit of all Floridians. Established in 2000 with a planned time frame of 35 years, CERP has been funded with over $10 billion and is one of the most ambitious restoration projects in the United States.  The passage of the 2016 Water Bill was instrumental in allowing Florida's water management districts to organize pilot projects. 

"We have a great roadmap from the federally authorized Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, also known as CERP, and the state-authorized 2016 Water Bill, with money allocated for some of the solutions. Unfortunately many of the solutions haven't been funded or implemented. There's been a lack of commitment and follow-through that has been exacerbated by high-visibility events that divert resources."

"These efforts took significant steps to protect the Everglades, limit damage to our estuaries and address the needs of our springs. It had the support of most environmental groups such as The Nature Conservancy and Audobon Florida, as well as business and agriculture groups.

We proceeded to ask Minton about the Clean Waterways Act that was recently passed by the Florida Senate. The Act put regulations in place that will speed up essential research into sewage treatments and water disposal. 

"It's a significant effort to address these issues, and we'll have to see how it changes as the act works it's way through the legislature. Politically-in general- there is a lot of finger pointing going on. The agricultural community has been demonized as a source of problems, but to address these issues it is the agricultural community that holds the keys for success, namely the land needed for the new infrastructure to meet the needs of future generations. Instead of condemnation, there needs to be collaboration and cooperation between the agricultural sector, government and environmental groups."

"We are all in this together, and we need to work hard to reform the alliance we once had when CERP and the 2016 Water Bill were adopted."

"Healthy dialogue, respect, and collaboration are the way forward. Instead of dwelling on the problems of the past, we need to focus on implementing the solutions of the future, many of which have already been identified. We need to make sure the new governing board members of the water districts realize they have the keys to the finest water management system in the country. The lessons learned from the CFWI should be used to evolve the water districts to meet the needs of a rapidly changing Florida and create continued success into the future."

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