At this year's Lay of the Land conference, a panel of experts spoke about the importance of water management in the State of Florida.
The panel included Brian J. Armstrong. P.D. of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), Drew Bartlett of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Dr. Ann B. Shortelle of St. John's River Water Management District (SJRWMD), and Hugh Thomas of Suwanee River Water Management District.. These four experts have years of experience in water management from districts stretching all across the state of Florida.
Bartlett began by describing the encouragement that Water Management Districts across the state had received from Governor DeSantis. "Governor DeSantis, on his second day in office, issued an environmental executive order which challenged all the Water Management Districts to do something about water quality. In the South Florida Water Management District, he assigned us twenty-nine priority projects."
Bartlett went on to highlight what he referred to as one of DeSantis' "flagship projects," the EAA reservoir project. The project is located just south of Lake Okeechobee, and will be a way to capture and treat stormwater and send it to the Everglades, where it is needed. The reservoir will be able to hold trillions of gallons of water.
Dr. Shortelle spoke about the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI), saying that some of the goals of CFWI are "to balance the water that's in the environment for what the environment needs and for human uses," and to answer the question "how do we transition to water supplies that are not highly dependent on the upper Floridan Aquifer?"
"We believe that with some artful management and good stewardship," Dr. Shortelle continued, "that we might be able to get to around 760 millions gallons a day from the upper Floridan. What that means is that new water must come from alternative water supplies."
Dr. Shortelle explained that the issue is not that Florida is running out of water, but that Florida is running out of easily accessible clean water that is inexpensive to treat. Since the agricultural sector relies on this water for irrigation, using alternative water resources will add to expenses. By building the proper infrastructure, we could be able to retain and use more of the water deposited by rain before it flows down to shore.
Hugh Thomas spoke about various projects being undertaken by the Suwanee River Water Management District. Many of these projects are in relation to the many natural springs in the District. Thomas also mentioned the value that North Florida Land Trust had in assisting these projects by opening communications between landowners and water management officials.
Brian J. Armstrong was the final speaker on the panel. He spoke about what he refers to as SWIM Plans (Surface Water Improvement Management Plans.) Armstrong believes that these SWIM plans "puts the district in an accountability position. It not only identifies the issues and what we need to do to fix them, but it also identifies projects, money, and the cooperators who need to participate with us to make those improvements."
For more insight into water management processes here in the State of Florida, listen to the full podcast recording of the presentation below: