For this year’s Earth Day — the annual event celebrated on April 22 worldwide by more than 193 countries — we might pause to consider two perspectives on water policy.
One viewpoint emphasizes the need for conservation in the midst of South Florida’s current drought. It also spotlights the nutrient content found in springs, lakes and rivers as an indication of declining water quality.
This frame of reference persuades observers to zero in on agriculture. They identify water use and the application of fertilizer on farms and ranches as the main sources of the problem.
From the perspective of farm families, this conclusion misses the fact that urban residents are the primary consumers of freshwater in Florida. Most agriculturists have cut their water applications by 50 percent in the past two decades — while growing more food.
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According to official data, they conserve more than 12 billion gallons of water a year across the state. They have also achieved notable success in enhancing water quality.
The South Florida Water Management District, for example, has reported that growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area reduced phosphorus content in water exiting their farms by 70 percent last year.
By themselves, farmers cannot change whole ecosystems affected by human use for many decades.
But they are conserving the patches of earth they call home. The noted forester and naturalist Aldo Leopold once pointed out that, “The practice of conservation must spring from a conviction of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.”
I am convinced that both perspectives share the same conservation ethic. They embrace a commitment to the perpetual sustainability of Florida’s prime resource.
Starting positions separate them, not the values or the intentions of the people who hold them. Guided by such an ethic, the prospects for stronger partnerships on water policy could not be better.
John L. Hoblick,
Florida Farm Bureau Federation