Our Water Resources...
We can all reduce harm to our creeks, rivers and lakes by such daily actions as not over-fertilizing our lawns, throwing trash into containers and cleaning up debris. However, it takes a coordinated effort by both individuals and governmental entities to protect and preserve out water resources for future generations.
Several governmental agencies share the responsibility for
protecting our water resources. The Northwest Florida Water
Management District manages our water resources to balance varying water uses and demands
with availability. Conflicting priorities often must be addressed
to ensure that there are sufficient water supplies for human
needs while maintaining water quality and viable, functioning
A cooperative and coordinated approach to the management
of our water resources is the best way. The District provides
technical assistance to various agencies and local governments
and water resource information and data are shared. Efforts
foster local involvement and responsibility.
At the present time, northwest Florida has a relatively
abundant supply of ground and surface water for the needs
of this region. The few existing or anticipated water-supply
problems are localized in nature and are being addressed
through the development of alternative water supplies, creation
of regional wellfields and supply systems or through special
While we may have generally adequate water resources in
the northwest now, programs and activities can be undertaken
to ensure that they are sustained. Regulatory programs, resource
management activities, land acquisition and management efforts
and educational programs are all implemented to help protect
the water resources that we place such a high value on in
the State of Florida.
...Through Regulatory Activities
Historically, regulatory activities have been undertaken
to safeguard our water resources, make our water supplies
more sustainable and promote a public understanding of the
need to do so. Rules exist so that everyone will follow prescribed
procedures designed to protect these essential resources.
A cooperative approach to regulatory activities is better
for the resource and the public.
Several permitting programs are implemented by the District.
Through the Consumptive Use Program, the District is able
to monitor how much water is taken from ground water or surface
water sources. The demand cannot exceed the supply or our
water resources will become depleted. Withdrawing too much
ground water can also allow the movement of contaminants
into our water supplies. This can be seen in some heavily
populated coastal areas where saltwater intrusion has occurred.
Well construction rules and permits help safeguard our water
supplies, not only in special areas of concern, but in general.
Well construction requirements help ensure that pollutants
and contaminants from the surface of the land do not make
their way into our underground water supplies. Proper construction
of new wells and proper plugging of old or abandoned wells
guard against this problem and protect ground water quality.
The District also has instituted a program of tagging new
and existing wells with unique identifiers to provide for
better monitoring of the water resource. Other permitting
programs involve the construction and repair of dams; artificial recharge (or the intentional introduction
of water into any underground formation); and agricultural
and forestry projects that manage, store
and drain surface waters.
Some areas within the District are being monitored very
closely as a result of particular practices and the Department
of Environmental Protection has identified or delineated
some areas where our ground water might be contaminated as
a result of various land uses. For example, use of the agricultural
pesticide Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) has led to some areas
of concern. The solution requires the testing of wells in
specific areas, linking those wells to public water supplies
or installing filter systems on the wells to clean the water.
New, proposed wells in these areas of concern also are subject
to special construction standards.
Areas within our District that are of particular concern
are designated as Water Resource Caution Areas. For an area
to be so designated, it must be experiencing or anticipated
to experience significant or widespread reductions in water
levels, saltwater intrusion or other degradation within the
next 20 years. There are two such areas now. One is the coastal
area of Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties where significant
withdrawals of ground water have occurred and the other is
the upper Telogia Creek drainage basin in Gadsden County
where surface water is used for agricultural activities.
Other areas are being closely monitored, such as coastal Franklin and Gulf counties and Panama City
which depends on Deer Point Lake Reservoir for its water supply.
Regulatory strategies are typically implemented on a district-wide
basis, with an emphasis on regional problem areas. Increased
technical information has given the District a greater ability
to identify, assess and avoid adverse impacts to water resources
and to natural systems.
...Through Resource Management
Numerous projects and
programs are carried out each year through the resource management
of the most comprehensive efforts to manage our water resources
in recent years is the development of the District's
Water Management Plan, which is intended to guide water
management decisions for the next 20 years. This
plan encompasses four major areas — water supply, flood protection
and floodplain management, water quality and natural systems
management — and are a part of the comprehensive Florida
The Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program
has been one of the largest programs within resource management.
Through the SWIM Program, begun in 1987, water bodies in
need of restoration or protection in order to restore or
maintain their water quality and associated natural systems
are identified and ranked. Once the needs of
the entire watershed are determined, water quality, water
quantity, habitat and overall management of the system are
Plans are developed to address the unique needs of each
watershed. SWIM plans have been developed for Lake Jackson,
Apalachicola River and Bay, Pensacola Bay System, St. Andrew Bay, Choctawhatchee
River and Bay and the St. Marks river basin.
A major component of the Apalachicola River and Bay Management
Plan is interstate management of shared water
resources. The Apalachicola River is one of several rivers
across northern Florida that is shared with the states of
Alabama or Georgia. Negotiations amoung these three states to reach a consensus on an equitable apportionment of these waters have not been successful. The states have turned to the court system to settle these water allocation issues. Several related lawsuits are pending.
Stormwater monitoring and management plans are especially important. Stormwater must
be controlled to prevent flooding and stormwater
must be retained and treated to prevent the pollution of
our rivers, lakes, bays and bayous. A master stormwater management
plan for the major watersheds in Leon County was developed
in cooperation with the county. Data obtained through this
plan are being used to identify drainage problems and to
implement improvements. A stormwater management plan also
was prepared for the City of Quincy and stormwater monitoring
has been done for the City of Pensacola.
Wellhead protection is another area of increasing concern
and activity. Public water supply wellfields must be clearly
and carefully delineated to protect them from contaminants.
Wellhead protection is particularly important for the westernmost
portions of the District such as Escambia and Santa Rosa
counties, which rely on the Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer. This
aquifer is close to the surface and does not contain protective
layers of clay to keep pollutants used on the land's surface
from quickly penetrating into ground water supplies. Other
areas where wellhead protection is important include recharge
areas where the Floridan Aquifer is at or near the surface,
such as in Leon, Wakulla and Jackson counties.
Research and data gathering are necessary for the proper
management of our water resources. Through the Ambient Monitoring
of Surface Water Quality Program
and the Ground Water Quality Monitoring Program, data are obtained which can be used to assess long-term
water quality trends. These data are provided to local governments
to assist them with local planning efforts.
Resource management includes restoration,
preservation and conservation activities. To be effective,
must be undertaken for the long term. Only through long-range
guidance, planning and management can our water resources
...Through Land Management and Acquisition
A continuing commitment to permanently
protect and preserve water resources forms the basis of the
Acquisition and Management Program. Since the program was
begun in 1984, the District has brought more than 200,000
acres under public ownership so that our water resources
can be permanently conserved and preserved.
Lands are acquired through such land acquisition programs as
Save Our Rivers, created in 1981, Preservation 2000,
created in 1990, and the Florida Forever program, created in 1999. The District maintains a plan
for acquiring environmentally sensitive lands and
prioritizes areas targeted for acquisition.
These acquisitions protect many important wetland and natural
vegetation communities in northwest Florida, including river
floodplains, headwater wetlands, coastal marshes, first magnitude
springs and pristine bottomland hardwood and associated upland
forests. Natural areas such as these are vital to the health
of rivers, lakes and water supplies.
Since the inception of its acquisition program, the District's
primary goal has been to bring as much as possible of the
privately owned floodplains of major rivers under public
ownership and protection. The objective of the land acquisition
program is to acquire lands to preserve waters and related
land for water management, water supply and conservation
and to acquire lands to restore, enhance or conserve their
natural, aesthetic, recreational or hydrologic values. Once
these lands are acquired, it is the District's responsibility
to manage and maintain them in an environmentally acceptable
Of particular importance to residents of northwest Florida
is that all of District-owned land except conservation easements is available to
the general public for a wide variety of resource-based recreational
purposes which take into consideration the environmental
sensitivity and suitability of the land. District lands are
available for bird-watching, nature study, photography, hiking,
jogging, camping, fishing, hunting, swimming, canoeing, boating
and other nature-related outdoor activities.
Increasing knowledge or awareness of issues
and concerns related to our water resources will help protect these important
resources in the future.
Public education programs are designed to increase public
awareness of water quality conditions and provide opportunities
for participation and involvement. Printed materials such
as brochures, booklets and posters, as well as
educational displays at environmental events, also are part of the educational efforts
of the District. By increasing public awareness of the importance
of our water resources, we believe further degradation can
The WaterWays educational
program remains the District's largest and most far-reaching
educational program. The program consists of a 128-page student
textbook, a teacher's guide, slide/tape presentations and
videos. This program is provided to public middle schools
free of charge and reaches nearly 14,000 middle school students
Various educational efforts also have been undertaken through
the SWIM Program. These efforts have focused on working with
community groups to raise awareness of environmental issues
and bringing educational opportunities to students.
The District has produced a series of "Big Picture" brochures, which open to satellite images of SWIM priority watersheds. They describe many District cooperative initiatives with localities to protect water quality and water resources. The "Big Picture" for Pensacola Bay, Choctawhatchee River and Bay, St. Andrew Bay, St. Marks River and Lake Jackson in Leon County has been captured through these brochures. Additionally, large colorful posters for the Apalachicola River and Bay, Econfina Creek and Lake Jackson also were designed and reprinted numerous times due to their popularity with the public.
Water supply and water quantity issues, due to increasing growth and droughts in the northwest area, resulted in the production of several water conservation brochures and booklets. These materials help alert residents to easy, low-cost water saving measures such as planting native, drought tolerant species in suitable sites, watering early or late in the day and reducing the amount and frequency of watering. Thousands have been reached through printed materials provided and distributed by area utilities and though online versions accessible from the District's web site. A Conservation Hotel and Motel Program (CHAMP) was also launched. The water CHAMP program encourages the voluntary reuse of towels and sheets to save water.