Water defines Florida’s natural ecosystems. Seasonally abundant rainfall seeps into vast aquifers and floodplains, releasing billions of gallons of freshwater through springs and rivers to nourish productive seagrass and marshes along the coasts.
While Florida public policy has long aspired to manage water resources to balance benefits for natural systems, economic uses, and population growth, today wetlands, springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries suffer from decades of over-drainage, pollution, overuse and poor management.
Reduced groundwater recharge and drainage of swamps and floodplains has depleted nature’s storage systems. Diversion and discharge of wet season stormwater to coastal estuaries contributes contaminants and robs those same estuaries of freshwater during dry seasons and droughts.
Pollution from farm and urban fertilizers and human and animal waste has impaired springs and rivers and has left a legacy of phosphorus and nitrogen in soils, lakes, and groundwater.
Overuse of water for farm and landscape irrigation and industrial and public supply has depleted aquifers and surface waters and reduced the flow of springs and rivers.
Policymakers have weakened Florida’s water laws, reduced citizen participation in permitting decisions, and cut funding for science, water conservation programs, and alternative water supply projects.
The combined effect of drainage, pollution, and overuse of water harms ecosystems, reduces the functionality of habitat, and has resulted in the permanent loss or expensive restoration.
Therefore be it resolved:
Audubon Florida, deploying professional staff and expertise and using information derived from sound science, will call on the volunteer leadership of local Audubon societies (chapters), members and grassroots networks, and will work with conservation allies, business and community leaders, public officials, and agencies to:
Protect Water at the Source – Aquifers, Wetlands, Lakes, and Springs
- Urge water management districts to identify and reserve water needed for the health of natural systems, set protective limits on other uses, and implement recovery strategies for natural systems;
- Support springs protection legislation and rules to control water pollution and restrict uses that reduce flow;
- Base water resource decisions on sound science and budget adequate funds to monitor the health of natural systems;
- Expand and improve floodplain, springshed, and water recharge area protection with public land acquisition and management and conservation easements; and
- Enforce wetlands protection laws and rules to achieve “no net loss.”
Advocate Sustainable Water Supply
- Require mandatory water conservation programs with defined savings goals as a condition for issuance of consumptive use permits;
- Enact stronger state efficiency standards for water fixtures and appliances;
- Fund and promote water conservation education and incentive programs for agricultural water users;
- Urge water management districts to set tax rates at levels adequate to fund water conservation, ecosystem restoration, alternative water supply, water storage, and land conservation;
- Promote sustainable alternative water supply projects that use reclaimed and storm water to recharge wetlands and aquifers, and discourage water supply projects that take water away from natural systems; and
- Prioritize reclaimed water for industrial and agricultural uses rather than wasteful landscape irrigation.
Advocate for Water Quality
- Strengthen state and local stormwater treatment requirements to meet water quality standards;
- Require developments to connect to central sewer where feasible and beneficial;
- Limit fertilizer use to the standard of “no harm” to water resources;
- Require that reclaimed water used for landscape irrigation be treated to a “no harm” standard for ground and surface water quality; and
- Eliminate land disposal of septage and sewage biosolids.