WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE SOl.ITHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT, FLORIDA By Garald G. Parker, C.P.G. 1/ The Southwest Florida Water Management Di.strict comprises an area of nearly 10,~00 square miles and 15 counties situated in central-western Florida. "Big" government is loathed in Florida just as it is generally elsewhere in the United States and it took a nearly catastrophic set of weather circtnnstances in 1959 and 1960 to convince citizens of this region that local government is too small, too weak and too provincial in outlook to solve such destructive floods as those that plagued this region in March 1959, and again in March 1960, and September 1960. As a matter of fact, this region has experienced alternating flood and drought throughout recorded history. But as long as the population was sparse and the demands for water supply were small the people could tolerate the vagaries of Nature. For example, the flood of September 1933, might have been more disastrous than those of 1959 and 196~ but in 1933 neither the population was so large nor were the present numerous structures, many located in flood prone areas, then in existence. Likewise, the area had experienced numerous droughts of one or two-to-three years duration in those years prior to 1960 but people had always been able "to make out" because their small needs for water could be met by existing sources. Now we are experiencing, generally over the whole District, a drought of unprecedented proportions with 10 years of subnormal precipitation out of the last 12 years, and with an accwnulated rainfall defiaiency of about 100 inches or more. With a long-term average annual precipitation for the Di.strict of 55 inches, 1/ Chief Hydrologist and Senior Scientist, Brooksville, Florida 33512
the deficiency is almost that of two years.of expected rainfall. Such ( complicated by an exploding population~ a vast thirst for wate7j[cond'0 -------~ s of extreme drought and floo~~ve created water-supply and flood-protection problems of such large magnitudes that local governments --village, city and county --cannot successfully combat them. Accordingly "Big Government" in the form of a regional flood-control agency was requested by local citizens and the State Legislature responded by passing Ch. 61-691, Florida Statutes, which established the Southwest Florida Water Minagement District. The act became law on July 1, 1961. Its Section 1 states: "For the purpose defined in Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, and to facilitate the creation and initial operation of a district under said Chapter, Southwest Florida Water Management District is hereby created a public corporation for carrying out and effectuating the provisions of said chapter. Other than as herein provided, Southwest Florida Water Management District shall operate under and be governed by the provisions of Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, as amended from time to time." Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, is known as the Flood Control Act. It prescribes rules and regulations governing the establishment of flood-control and water-management districts. Among other things this act provides for cooperation with agencies of the federal government to effect flood control management (378.01) and establishes a water-resources development account (378.03) in the general revenue fund of the state which is to provide financial assistance to districts established under its authority, including the funds as grants-in-aid to purchase lands required for such purposes as water-storage areas, canal or reservoir sites and bridges. The members of the Board of Governors, as provided in Chapter 61-691, were appointed by the Governor and met for their organizational meeting on August 28, 1961, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. By March 6, 1962, -2-
the entire District was organized into eleven River Ba.sins each with its own Ba.sin Board operating at the grass-roots level, to levy taxes, build operate flood-control and other water-management structures within limits of their river-basin boundaries, and to be responsible for carrying out the provisions of Qiapter 61-691 in their respective boundaries. Each Ba.sin Board, however, is responsible for its actions to the 9-member Board of Governors of the District. In the meantime.members of the Florida Delegation to the u. s . Congress were busy arranging through the Committees on Public Works in both the House and the Senate of the 87th Congress for aid of the U . s. Government under the provisions of the River and Harbor and Flood Control Acts. This resulted in the establishment of the Four River Ba.sins, Florida,Project as described in House Document No. 585, 87th Congress, 2d Session, 1962. Under this authority and with funds provided by the U. s. Congress,the State of Florida's general revenue fund (water-resources development account) and local supplemental taxes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District began work on the Four River Basins Project on October 23, 1962. The District staff at that time consisted of only three persons, but additional personnel were rapidly added and work has since progressed in an orderly manner on the flood-control aspects of the Four River Basins Project. Early in the project~efforts were expended in getting work started on the Tampa Bypass Canal, with its several water-control structures and planned canal system to route damaging floods around the periphery of Tampa instead of through it; on the outdoor recreation plan to allow and provide for citizen use of floodcontrol properties and other works-of-the-District such as reservoirs and flood-detention areas for such activities as hunting, fishing and camping; on the Lake Tarpon project to prevent flooding and to seal off salt-water -3-
from access to the lake, thus allowing it to eventually become a fresh-water lake; to acquire lands in the huge Green Swamp for flood-detention areas and, hopefully, for later release as water supplies to the downstream urban areas; to improve navigation and water conservation on the Withlacoochee River by construction at the Wysong Locks and Dam of the inflatable "Fabridam"; on the purchase of a huge flood-detention area in the lower Hillsborough River to serve also as a site for a big, new well field to serve the growing needs of the City of Tampa; on the replacement of an antiquated and worn-out dam on the Oklawaha at Hlss Bluff with a bigger, new locks and dam; on the construction of the Masaryktown Bypass Canal to prevent a reoccurrence of some of the worst flooding experienced in the District during the 1960 flood; on the construction of the Tsala Apopka Outfall Canal on the Withlacoochee River in Citrus County; and on numerous other smaller projects. Works such as these, including the building and occupancy of a new headquarters office and service center on a beautiful oak-and-pine forested site 7 miles south of Brooksville, occupied the chief attention of the staff until early 1969. At that time, owing to growing pressure on the District to regulate the drilling of wells and the uncontrolled development of ground water, the decision was made to establish a Grotmd Water Hydrology Division for these purposes. This was done in March, 1969 but was quickly reoriented into a Hydrologic Division when it became apparent that ground water and surface water in this District are only different sides of the same coin. With the activation of the new Hydrologic Di.vision, the nucleus was available for the establishment, under Chapter 373.142, of a Water Regulatory Di.strict. This was accomplished in July, 1969, with the new organization having the same Board of Governors and the same District boundaries as the original District. The staff wrote the draft of a proposed regulatory law and on October 1, 1969, Chapter 357R-1, Florida Administration Code, "Orders of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Regulatory)" became effective. Chapter 357R-1 defined -4-
the rules and regulations for the development, control, conservation and use of water resources, with particular reference to ground water resources in the District. Its several sections provided for: (1) Purposes and definitions; (2) Registration of well drillers; (3) Construction of wells; (4) Inventory of wells and water uses; (5) Civil action for damages; and (6) Penal provisions. Under these regulations the registration of all well drillers and engineering laboratory drillers drilling holes of two-inches in diameter or larger was begun on January 1, 1970; all drillers of good repute and adequate experience were "grandfathered" in during this first year but any not registered by January 1, 1972, were required to take both a written test in the office and a demonstration test of drilling skills using their own rigs "on the job." In the office IBM card systems were set up for data control, data filing and retrieving, and data processing. Before many months had passed the staff was processing an average of nearly 1,000 well permits and well-completion reports each month and to date have registered 1,107 drillers. A total of 22,939 welldrilling permits have been processed from January 1, 1970 to date.
Although the Four River Ba.sins Project is still the largest in terms of money and manpower expended on Di.strict programs, the problems relating to water-supply are rapidly taking the major emphasis of our future planning. -6-