Water Use Rules:
As water levels fall, districts join forces
New rules have been proposed for water use
By Karen Voyles
Published: Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 26, 2009 at 11:46 p.m.
Two water management districts have begun working together on how to deal with declining groundwater levels in North Florida.
Employees of the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts met earlier this month to determine why the water levels are declining and how to reverse the trend.
Meanwhile, the Suwannee River district has proposed new water use rules and is asking for public comments on the proposal.
Florida law requires the state’s five water management districts to develop plans on how they will meet the water supply demands of their district over 20 years.
Both water management districts are in the process of developing individual water supply plans to be adopted by December 2010.
Municipalities and other local government agencies will then have 18 months to add alternative water supply projects into their comprehensive plans.
Staff members, during their initial meeting in Gainesville, reviewed data on the regional drawdown of the Floridan Aquifer.
According to data presented at the meeting, the drawdown is occurring in Southeast Georgia and the Jacksonville area and is moving west toward Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia and Union counties.
“The drawdown may impact the health of the natural systems and future water supplies in the basin,” said Carlos Herd, water supply project manager for the Suwannee River district, in a news release.
The Suwannee River Water Management District’s proposed water use rule amendments would not take effect until later this summer. The proposal includes the following:
Watering restrictions for lawn and landscape irrigation: Homeowners and businesses with an established lawn/landscape would be allowed to water once weekly from December to February and twice weekly from March to November.
In either case, landscape irrigation would not be permitted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Conservation for all users: Users in each type of water use class would need to implement a water conservation plan.
Conditions for issuance: To obtain a water use permit, renewal or modification, the proposed use of water would need to meet various conditions, including be reasonable and in the public interest; not interfere with existing legal use of water; not result in harm to the resource; and not violate state water quality standards.
Implementation of alternative water supply: This would allow district staff to recommend or require large water users to implement an alternative water supply when it is feasible.
Alternative water supplies are necessary where water sources are inadequate to meet demands over the next 20 years.
Permit duration and five-year review: This would give district staff better criteria for establishing permit duration. It would also provide a five-year review of the permit to ensure better compliance.
Criteria for water bottling: Applicants requesting a permit to bottle water would need to submit a business plan, which would demonstrate how much water is needed for the operation and the demand for bottled water.
The district’s proposed rules will be published in the Florida Administrative Weekly during July. Under state law, the public has 21 days after the proposed rules are published to object or request a hearing.
For more information about the proposed rules, contact Linda Welch, rules coordinator, SRWMD, 9225 County Road 49, Live Oak, FL 32060 or call 386-362-1001 or send an email to [email protected].