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Water Wednesday Recap: Florida’s Water Policies

Water Wednesday in March will feature Clean Water. To start, we briefly reviewed the Florida water policies and regulations in last Water Wednesday.

Before clean water laws, raw sewage sometimes kept swimmers out of the surf at Florida beaches. Pollutants could be dumped almost anywhere – rivers, lakes, shorelines, beaches, wetlands, the underground aquifer. Then Floridians said “We want clean water!”, and we passed a series of clean-water laws over the next 50 years.

Because Floridians like clean fresh water, the Florida Air & Water Pollution Control Act was passed in 1967. At that point, sewage-treatment plants began cleaning up wastewater before discharging it into our streams, rivers, and lakes. Floridians also like clean coastal waters. Three years later, protection came to these waters in the form of the Florida Pollutant Discharge Prevention & Control Act. This act better protects our waters from oil spills and other water pollution. Florida Pollutant Discharge Presentation and Control Act empowers and provides a trust fund, the Florida Coastal Protection Trust Fund, for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to regulate, investigate, rehabilitate, and clean up the sites contaminated by the spills and discharges. The Florida Pollutant Discharge Prevention & Control Act also extends liability for site pollution to several potential defendants and is a potent measure for forcing responsible parties to contribute to the costs of cleanup.

The 1970s represented a turning point in water laws. One important event came in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire. This had happened before, but this time it helped to spur grassroots activism that led a wave of federal legislation to help reign in air and water pollution. One important piece of the legislation is the U.S. Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972. Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. It led to further improved sewage treatment plants. The Clean Water Act also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.

One significant outcome of that era was the creation of our regional water management districts in Florida. There are five water management districts. Their boundaries are based not on political boundaries but rather on natural drainage basins. This form of water management is unique and forward-looking. The districts’ responsibilities include four broad categories of water management: water supply, water quality, flood protection, and natural-systems management.

To learn more details of the Florida water polices and regulations, please watch the recording below or watch it on YouTube.

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