Dispersed water storage is a critical piece of Florida’s water puzzle, and the Florida Legislature was wise last year in its decision to provide funding for it in the state budget. And this year is no different, as funding for this program is paramount to the South Florida Water Management District’s efforts to mitigate the adverse affects of run-off into Florida’s estuaries.
The partnerships that the SFWMD are able to foster with private landowners through the dispersed water storage program allow stormwater to be diverted and stored on their ranchlands and citrus groves when it would otherwise be discharged at the wrong quantities and times into our precious waterways and estuaries.
As the former assistant executive director at the SFWMD, I have seen firsthand how private landowners provide significant benefits through this program that allows them to store the water by using simple structures.
In creating these meaningful public-private partnerships, private landowners expand their stewardship in a way that improves the state’s water future by providing environmental benefits that extend well beyond the boundaries of their properties.
Holding water on these lands provides valuable groundwater recharge for water supply, while improving water quality and enhancing habitats downstream. These partnerships avoid high cost of land acquisition and management and keep land on local tax rolls.
I firmly believe that dispersed water storage should play a part in Florida’s comprehensive approach to meet Florida’s water management needs, and I am hopeful that lawmakers and the governor recognize this important program as fundamental to that goal and allocate funds to it during the 2016 legislative session.
Together, we can protect Florida’s precious natural resources.
Ernie Barnett, executive director, Florida Land