Saving Water, Saving Florida

APA Florida, San Felasco Section


Friday, October 10, 2014
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EDT

Gainesville , FL,

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The “Year of the Environment” in Florida, 1972, was supposed to be an epic year for water and land-planning in the state. Recognizing growth as a runaway factor and water as a limiting one, the Legislature that year passed a major land-and water-use planning law and created our modern water-management districts. A “proper growth management system,” in the words of the late John DeGrove, would balance water and land, environment and the economy to keep Florida a paradise. But too often, water management became a political apparatus: Regional water boards were given taxing authority, planning boards had none. Gubernatorial appointees, frequently from industries putting the most pressure on water, got to hand out the permits. The state water bureaucracy was charged with finding more water for growth, rather than helping communities thrive on the natural waters with which they were blessed. Forty years on, our water woes are at a point of crisis far eclipsing 1972. Overuse and increasing pollution of aquifer and surface waters are now magnified by the rising seas and storms of a changing climate. But also rising is an unprecedented water ethic among Floridians and their communities – “a community instinct in the making,” as Aldo Leopold once described the land ethic – who want to come together to use less, pollute less, and live differently with water. As we remake growth management for the 21st Century, journalist Cynthia Barnett gives us insights into how Florida can harness the ethic; reform politics in favor of a sustainable economy and environment; and help common ground around the one bond all Floridians share – water.