Editorial: Wasting water
Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 4:35 p.m.
State environmental officials predict that by 2030, Florida will be consuming nearly 8 billion gallons of water a day. That is about 1.6 billion gallons a day more than we currently use. They also say that Florida's aquifers are inadequate to meet the projected demand.
Those officials are not alone in their assessment or concerns. Besides the expected environmental groups and watchdogs, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida all have the ensuring of a sufficient future water supply on their long-term agendas.
You wouldn't know it, though, to look at the 2013 Florida Legislature. Sure, there are a handful of bills being floated under the guise of increasing the water supply, but they also fall short of serving the public interest, and instead help special interests like utilities and big agriculture.
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, for instance, is designed to encourage utilities to develop alternative sources of water. But it would allow consumptive use permits to run 30 years instead of the current 20 years under the presumption that they could more easily obtain financing with the longer permit.
We must ask, however, how much has Florida's water landscape changed since 1983 — 30 years ago? Totally.
Instead of looking for ways to pump more water from more sources, we are confounded that no one in Tallahassee has embraced the common-sense notion that the best way to ensure our water supply future is to conserve what we already have and use it more judiciously. Virtually everyone engaged in Florida's water conversation concedes that extending our groundwater supply is far more economical than having to develop alternative sources of water.
Renowned Florida water writer Cynthia Barnett, who says our state needs to create "a water ethic," summed up the problem during a speech in Tallahassee a few weeks ago.
"Our entire system of water planning in Florida is based on a false assumption — and really on the 20th century model — that we must have more and more water to grow and prosper."
Barnett is right, and our policymakers and politicians know it. Yet, they continue to sidestep the real solution to meeting our future water supply needs and continue to waste water, time and taxpayer money looking for ways to build new, costly water projects that merely shift the problem and increase the cost of water. The average Floridians use a little more than 150 gallons of water a day. Communities around our state have reduced their water usage to two-thirds that or less. It can be done.
Instead of looking for ways to extend water permits and create new public debt, our lawmakers and water policy makers need to create serious conservation programs and develop incentives that will bring about behavioral changes in how Floridians use and, importantly, conserve water.
It's time to quit wasting time and to quit wasting water. Is anyone in Tallahassee listening?