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Anne Harvey Holbrook, JD, MS, is the staff attorney for Save the Manatee Club, where her work focuses on water quality and quantity and endangered species issues.
Florida’s dwindling water supply needs conservation, regulatory reform

Florida is facing a water supply crisis. Large portions of the state are deemed “Water Resource Caution Areas” (WRCAs). The Legislature has directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and regional Water Management Districts to identify “alternative water supply” sources, including reclaimed and reused water and even expensive desalinized seawater.

How did Florida arrive at this critical point? The answer lies partly in the fact that water has always been thought of as plentiful, and free for the taking. We have a culture – and a regulatory system – that encourages permitting groundwater withdrawals for virtually any use from golf course irrigation to cattle ranching to subdivision development.

Public water supply and agriculture are by far the largest water users statewide, according to DEP’s 2016 annual water supply planning report. With over 1,000 people a day moving to Florida, DEP expects public water consumption to reach 3 billion gallons per day (bgd) by 2035, while agricultural use will increase to 2.8 bgd.

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