Water and Florida
Florida's water future: Where is it going? Where will it come from?
The Supply Side
The state projects demand for water by agriculture will grow 6% by 2035 to 2.7 billion gallons per day. In 2015, agriculture in Florida drew more water than utilities providing drinking water. By 2035, agriculture will still be a big user but will fall to No. 2 behind public water utilities. There are indications that as Florida growers change their land use — whether row crops over pasture or grass-fed beef over traditionally raised cattle — they have more intensive water needs.
But agriculture’s getting more efficient in its water use through the implementation of best management practices and through technology such as moisture sensors, says Del Bottcher, president of agriculture, environmental and water resources engineering firm Soil and Water Engineering Technology in Gainesville. He says farmers have an incentive not to over-irrigate because too much water washes nutrients out. But farmers worry about being squeezed out of access to water if they should need it as urban areas expand.
Bottcher says the tracking of agricultural irrigation by farmers’ government-permitted use can lead to overestimating farmers’ consumption.
Bottcher says that on average, farmers use less than they are permitted to use and that use varies “tremendously” depending on rainfall. He says Florida’s problem is that water is needed on the urbanized coasts but typically is pumped from wells in the interior. Rainfall hits paved surfaces in urban areas and then winds up going to the sea as stormwater. “If we captured our urban stormwater, we would have plenty of water,” Bottcher says.
» The state’s water management districts say demand cannot be met with existing capacity but can be met through a combination of traditional and alternative water sources, conservation and implementation of projects identified in regional water supply plans.
» The state spent $57 million on water supply projects and an additional $806 million on water quality and other water resource-related programs in 2016-17. Since then, spending for water resources has increased steadily, and the state can’t maintain those levels of spending without additional revenue sources. The state Office of Economic and Demographic Research says those sources could include statutorily uncommitted documentary stamp taxes, additional general revenue funds or bonds.
The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination plant provides up to 25 million gallons of drinking water a day.
Possible Alternate Sources
» Brackish surface and groundwater
» Surface water captured and/or stored during wet weather flows
» Reclaimed water