Apr 17, 2008
Conservastore reprint of Article on Florida Water Wars
Orange County has set aside $1 million to fight a legal war with the South Florida Water Management District over access to water.
We will pay two government agencies to battle each other, a scenario that only benefits lawyers, consultants and newspaper columnists.
This is absurd. It is the kind of government waste that has people screaming for more tax cuts.
The fight is over Orange County's plan to drain 7 million gallons of water a day from lakes Mary Jane and Hart, the featured attractions at Moss Park.
There are two problems with this:
*It could damage the ecology of the shallow lakes.
*It could deplete water needed for the Kissimmee River.
The river is undergoing a massive restoration project that, when completed, will create 40 square miles of wetlands.
The thing about wetlands is that you have to keep them wet. Without water, the half-billion dollars being spent on this will be wasted.
So the South Florida water district wants to make sure it has plenty.
And two of the many lakes that drain into the Kissimmee are Mary Jane and Hart.
This puts the birds, bugs and fish of the Kissimmee in direct competition with Orange County for water.
I side with the critters.
Orange County doesn't need the water, and they do.
About half the water Orange pipes to homes is sprayed on yards, where it collects pesticides and fertilizers and carries them to lakes Mary Jane and Hart -- and the Kissimmee River.
More water is wasted in homes because of long showers, huge toilet bowls, and so on and so forth.
Orange County has done little to change this situation.
It has not banned water-greedy St. Augustine grass in new developments.
It has not worked with homeowner associations to end covenants requiring St. Augustine.
It does not have a rate structure that sufficiently penalizes people for using too much water.
Yet the county has its straw out. It is easier to waste water and pump more from the nearest lake than it is to conserve water and leave the lake alone.
If I were the ruler of the water, this would be my response: If you are so hellbent on more growth, then you can provide for it by making better use of the water you now have.
That would force the county to think radically about a water-saving ordinance it currently is working on.
Extremism in the pursuit of conservation is no vice.
I'd tell the same to everybody looking to stick a straw in the St. Johns River. If we conserved, we could meet our water needs for the next 10 years without pulling another drop from a lake or river.
And then it would be time to talk about more.
Rather than throw lawyers at the South Florida water district, Orange should work with it on a long-term solution for the river and people.
One option is to build a reservoir that would provide water to the river and to the counties. There also is the possibility of a new well field out in the hinterlands.
Those would be expensive.
But you would have Orange and Osceola chipping in, along with the water district. Maybe other utilities in the region would be interested. Many wallets help lighten the load.
So let's call off the litigation.
For too many years, competition -- not cooperation -- has defined our quest for water.
Those days must end. We can't afford this nonsense any longer.