We need commitment on Florida's water issues

One of Florida’s most precious resources is water. Our state is world renowned for our 1,200 miles of beaches, our springs and more than 7,700 large lakes. Yet Florida’s water supply is more than just a tourist attraction — it’s also the heart of our agriculture industry and the source of drinking water we all depend upon to live our lives.

Water is so essential to our existence, yet water policy is often overlooked or tackled in a parochial manner. Neither approach is right. To ignore the growing demand for and the quality of our supply leaves our state incredibly vulnerable. Focusing on one community at a time in a piecemeal approach can lead to new problems in another down the road.

As an example, look no further than South Florida’s recent challenges. This year, the region faced one of the rainiest summers on record. To reduce the chance of flooding, excess fresh water from Lake Okeechobee was pumped into South Florida estuaries. While this addressed the immediate problem of relieving pressure on the dike maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it also upset fragile coastal ecosystems downstream and negatively impacted the local economies.

Rightly, local public officials at every level mobilized to address the problem. Many of the ideas that have come out of the task force spearheaded by state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, correctly consider the state as a whole and the connectivity of our waterways. But, with emotions high and attention so focused on one region, there is a need to guard against tunnel vision and focusing exclusively on one problem to the detriment of others. It is why I am calling on policymakers on every level to embrace three principles as we look for water policy solutions and establish water funding priorities.

First, as we deliberate on water issues, we must do so through the lens of a comprehensive, statewide approach to protect the long-term health of Florida’s water ecosystems. Water has no boundaries, and it is imperative that policymakers, opinion leaders and the public reject a limited parochial view.

Written by Steve Crisafulli: My View - Dec. 4, 2013 6:24 PM

(Source: Tallahassee Democrat)