Apr 04, 2007

Florida Strengthens Protection for the Everglades

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) today formalized a rule that further guarantees to protect and restore America’s Everglades.
Known as the Regional Water Availability Rule, this first-of-its kind requirement prevents water users from tapping the famed River of Grass for new or additional supplies of water. Setting aside the water in the Everglades for environmental restoration, permitted users like urban water utilities along Florida’s southeast coast will now have to find alternative sources to supply regional growth.
In South Florida, water suppliers in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties currently depend on an estimated 500 million gallons of water per day from the Everglades to recharge and sustain the Biscayne Aquifer -- their primary drinking water source. Recognizing the need for more protective limits for the River of Grass, the District last year began developing the Regional Water Availability Rule to limit increased reliance on the Everglades system and Everglades-dependent groundwater, formally identifying them as “sources of limited availability.”
Cities needing additional water supplies will now be required to seek sources that are not dependent on the Everglades for recharge. These alternative water supply solutions may include recycling water, using reclaimed water to recharge the Biscayne Aquifer or drawing water from the deeper Floridan Aquifer, which requires treatment to remove saltwater content.
Existing water supply permits are not being revoked. The rule affects new applicants seeking a permit and existing permittees seeking permit renewal. The rule specifically prevents permitted water supply allocations from being greater than levels that existed prior to April 2006. To prevent shortfalls in meeting current public drinking water needs, the rule provides a grace period for renewal applicants, provided they are actively developing alternative supplies. The District sought extensive public input on the rule, holding five rounds of workshops and issuing five draft rules in response to comments from stakeholders before developing and publishing the final draft.