On getting a fair share of our water resources - June 1st, 1973

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On getting a fair share of our water resources - June 1st, 1973

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On getting a fair share of our water resources - June 1st, 1973
Parker, Garald G. (Garald Gordon)
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Box 2


Subjects / Keywords:
Aquifers -- Hydrogeology -- Everglades (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Hydrology -- Florida -- Biscayne Aquifer (Fla.) ( lcsh )

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
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The University of South Florida Libraries believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries.
Resource Identifier:
032968560 ( ALEPH )
891343127 ( OCLC )
G16-00674 ( USFLDC DOI )
g16.674 ( USFLDC Handle )

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-. FROM THE DESK OF THE CHIEF HYDROLOGIST: On Getting A Fair Share of Our Water Resources. The question has been raised several times in recent months about how cities and counties could be sure of getting their "fair share" of the dwindling, remaining, undeveloped water resources. Additionally, large industrial, commercial and agricultural interests all have asked this question --or some variant of it. Currently, according to the newspapers, Pasco County is considering filing a lawsuit to prevent any further development of the water resources in Pasco County for export outside the county.' They are interested in protecting "their" water. The problem of how to determine any geographic area's fair share of the waters of Florida has not been solved; nor is it likely to be in the near future. The following paragraphs should help make this matter clear. In the first place, Florida law vests water ownership not in areas of the state but in people of the state. Thus, for example, the people of a county 7 as individuals own their water resources, but a County as a governmental unit in Florida does not; neither does any city nor any other local governmental unit "own" any given amount of the water resources, but the citizens of each local governmental unit own, or have a right to some undetermined share of the water resources. In general, water in Florida attaches as a property right. Prior to the establishment of the Southwest Florida Water Management District(R), a landowner residing within the District could develop and use water in any reasonable, useful and non-wasteful manner that he chose so long as he did not infringe on the rights of his neighbors. Furthermore,he did not need to ask anyone's permission to do so. Beginning in January 1970, rmder authority of Ch. 357R-1, Florida Administrative Code, any well of 2" diameter or larger must be permitted and all drillers are required to register and have a well permit to drill any


well. Ch. 357R-1 was superseded by Ch. 16CC, Florida Administrative Code, effective February 3, 1972, but did not change any basic requirements of 357R-l. For household purposes any citizen may develop his own well but he needs to secure a permit to do so. Very few persons ever make use of the option to drill or dig their own family-supply wells. If a person does infringe on the water rights of his neighbor, he is liable to a damage suit brought in a civil court of jurisdiction by those seeking redress. In general, Florida follows the English law of riparian rights, modified to the extent that a taker must make reasonable use of his taking. But this law is difficult to apply in an area such as Florida where riparian rights, which were originated to cover stream-flow usage, cannot be easily or readily applied to aquifer flow and storage. Here, at least in peninsular Florida, more than 90 percent of all water developed and possible of future development is from groundwater sources, chiefly from the Floridan Aquifer which underlies the entire state to depths of up to about 2,000 feet and extends northward into Alabama and Georgia. In the past, when population was smaller and the demand on water supply was much less than it is now, there was little cause for concern about who owned what water. There was plenty for everyone and in fact,, a times and in certain places there was far too much; because of this Floridans were chiefly concerned with getting rid of water. Thus, efforts to drain the wetlands for reclamation began in late 1800's and the efforts continue to this date in parts of the State, on an accelerated scale. But the current drainage for reclamation is no longer chiefly for agricultural purposes. Now it is mostly to make more property available for real-estate developments. "New Towns" are springing up almost everywhere, some of them planned for wetland sites such as parts of the Green Swamp and the Cypress Creek Swamp (central Pasco County) where, in normal times of flooding, the water may rise above the land surface to 10 feet or even more! Wherever in the wetlands such developments occur and the land must be drained to allow for the developments, the "water crop" that was formerly available from that land is -2-


reduced to the extent of the amount of water drained off to the sea. Furthermore, draining the swamps dries out the formerly wet soils thus permitting the devastating forest fires to destroy the swamp lands, their organic soils, and the flora and fauna of the swamps that made them so esthetically pleasing in the first place. The current fires that are devastating the Big Cypress Swamp and adjacent parts of the Everglades are a horrible example of this. Thus, in draining the wetlands, we are not only experiencing reduction of the water crop but the exploding population is demanding more and more water which further diminishes it. Whereas a generation or so ago the normal city or suburban family got by on perhaps 50 to 75 gpcd (gallons per capita per day), they now use about 150 to 250 gpcd. Whereas previously home owners and cities along the coastlines of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico could develop fresh-water supplies from wells down to the very shoreline, this is in most places no longer possible. The plethora of drainage canals, pleasure-boat canals and deeply-dredged natural channels and marinas for shipping purposes, have so lowered water-levels in the coastal areas that nature's long-established equilibrium between salt and fresh water has become unbalanced, and Nature, in her inexorable and implacable manner, moves salt-water inland to restore the balance --but this time at some distance farther inland than the original position. Thus it is that most of the Gold Coast of southeastern Florida and much of the Sun Coast of southwestern Florida is suffering salt-water encroachment. This has resulted in the ruination of thousands of privately owned wells all along both coasts, plus the loss of municipal well fields of such cities as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on the Atlantic Coast and Tampa and St. Petersburg on the Gulf Coast, to name only a few. Losing the capability to produce fresh water in the salt-water encroachment zones of the coastal areas, the coastal cities have opted to develop new well fields at some "safe" distance inland. When they do this they generally purchase a rural site of, say, about one square mile, and then proceed to develop as much water as they need from that field. If drawdowns of the cone-of-depression in and around -3-


the new well field eventually become too great, or the adjacent landowners seek relief from interference with water levels in their own wells or lakes, the practice has been simply to reduce pumpage in the old well field and develop a new one, similar to the old one, a few miles away. This system worked reasonably well in the past but is now in deep trouble, especially in the rapidly urbanizing areas of the State. This follows because such well fields produce far more water than Nature supplies on the land within the boundaries of the well field. For instance, a city may own a well field of one square mile and pump it at a rate of 30 mgd (million gallons a day). Over much of the central and northern parts of the District Nature's long-term average recharge from precipitation is only about 650,000 to 750,000 gpd/mi2 (gallons per day per square mile). Thus, if the city owning the land took only the amount of water actually recharged in the land it owns and not infringe on such recharge on adjacent property, the city could not produce even one mgd (million gallons a day) from its one-square-mile property. Instead it would have to buy an additional 40 to 46 square miles to produce the 30 mgd needed. But the fact is that a large number of well fields of such size and capacity are already in operation in Florida, each taking many times the amount of water that the well-field opponents consider to be their "fair share" of the local, available water. Would the courts ever be likely to restrict such one-square-mile well fields to their annual one-square-mile water crop and thus cut off nearly 200,000 of the cities' water customers (200,000 customers x 150 gpcd = 30 mgd) from their water supply? Further, the investment of the city and its citizens in the land, wells, well-pumps, pipelines, etc., running to perhaps $20 million or more per~well field, must be considered. My own opinion is that no court is going to close such a well field down. Some other way must be found to supply the owners of the adjacent lands whose water crop has been appropriated by the city. The same may be said of any other large water development, such as the big wells in use by industry and agriculture. Many such big wells that supply water -4-


either to irrigate citrus groves or to process citrus fruit, or the big wells that supply the phosphate industry for the mining and processing of the ore, or the big pumps used by the rock-mining companies to dewater their mine pits each produce 5,000 to 8,000 gpm or 7.2 to 11.5 mgd. A single well located on a small city lot producing 5,000 gpm, in an area where the average annual recharge per day per square mile is 650,000 gallons, thus preempts the water crop from an area of about 11 square miles! The legislature and the courts of Florida have not yet addressed themselves to this problem and until they do there is little likelihood that a workable answer can be found to the problem that we are considering here. As the District has been operating, we have permitted no new large water supplies to be developed unless the proposed site is in a remote and generally undeveloped area where ample, unused recharge is occurring to supply the proposed new water supply facility, or where excess flood-flow waters can be captured from streams or swamps that otherwise would waste the flow to the sea or uselessly evapoFate it into the air. Such areas, for example, would be the 870-square mile Green Swamp, or the Cypress Creek area of Pasco C,aunty, which is a part of the 130-square mile Pasco High; or the recently permitted diversion of water from the Little Manatee River to supply water for a large, new, electrical generating plant. With regard to using the water supply per seas a means of limiting population, as seems to be a current popular idea, I know of no place in the country where this means has been successfully applied. Some other means of control, such as limiting the size of land parcels that may be sold, or the prevention of use of septic tanks or privies in new developments, or the limiting of numbers of people per acre or per square mile, must be found. People will move wherever they choose to live and have the means of so doing. When they congregate in areas lacking a local water supply to support their numbers, government or private enterprise finds or develops the water needed. Well-known -5-


examples are such cities as Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and many others, some of which have developed water-import systems costing billions of dollars and pipelines exceeding 400 miles in length. 'The same will be done here, eventually, and we can probably look forward to the tapping of such large fresh-water sources of the water-rich Florida Panhandle as the Apalachicola River (average flow of about 14,130 mgd= (14.13 bgd) and the Suwannee River (average flow of about 6,734 mgd= (6.73 bgd). Together these two streams would supply, taking only one-third of their average annual flow at their downstream ends, a total of nearly 7 bgd (billion gallons a day). Considering that our overall average water use here in Florida (including industrial and agricultural uses) is estimated at about 1,000 gpcd (national use in 1970 is 1,800 gpcd according to the USGS), this would provide enough water for an additional 7 million people, or nearly double the present population. 'This is not a short and easy answer to the question regarding getting our "fair share" of the water remaining to be developed. However, the question posed has no quick, easy answer. But in s~ry, I see no way to use water as such as a means of controlling population. I haven't even mentioned reuse of water as a means of augmenting the water crop in Florida, or the desalination of coastal brackish ground water (previous Hydroscope issues have covered these items). But these are means of greatly extending the water crop, and already they are being used on a limited scale. I look for these means to be greatly expanded in the next few years. Finally, the legislature and the courts must tackle the waterlaw enigmas and contradictions of this State. Such a new-water law should cover both ground water and surface water in accordance with sound hydrologic principles now well understood by scientists, and probably adopting basically the philosophy of prior-appropriation rights with reasonable and beneficial-use stipulations h d -.. --GARALD G. PARKER, C.P.G. SENIOR SCIENTIST AND CHIEF HYDROLOGIST 06-01-73 -6-


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