Water management mismeasures

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Suppose you didn’t know much about water management but you ran successfully for state office. How can you fake it when you have to talk about the need to improve water management? The same way that elected officials do for many other issues when confronted by their own ignorance: Demand better “accountability”(!) and “performance measures”(!). Immediately!

Demanding water management programs be measured for effectiveness sounds good but does not work out perfectly. For one thing, many key aspects of effective water management can’t be measured well. (Ignore that problem.) Water agencies are forced to analyze and report only on what can be measured. They often end up reporting on secondary concerns like “time to process permits” or “water supply planning costs per capita.” (pp. 117-118 of SJRWMD report) Even when a measure makes some sense, like the number of minimum flows and levels adopted, it often makes no difference. For example, the Northwest Florida Water Management District has reported for many years the total number of MFLs they have adopted: Zero. (NWFWMD report, p. 128) and that they plan not to adopt even one for at least five more years. They report a failure to accomplish a basic mission–and nothing happens.

As an elected official, you probably are too busy or self-important to read the performance measure reports anyway. So how DO you decide if water management is going well or badly? Easy. You tally the complaints registered by your sister-in-law, the guy down the street with a water permit, and big political donors. Those are the people you trust, whose donations you can measure, and who performed well for you.

Another way  would be to pass good laws, fund them adequately, and ensure that competent people who care about Florida are put in charge of water management.

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