Water Wars in Washington County

Last night, Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper advised citizens of Washington County to protect their water resources from proposed well fields proposed at the county's southern border with Bay County.

More than 100 residents gathered in Vernon, Florida at the Washington County Courthouse to hear water experts explain how a massive proposed Bay County well field just to the south could significantly draw down the area’s famous sandhill lakes.  The ramifications of these wells could be devastating to the way of life of Washington County's citizens and wildlife.

Draper talked about how the sandhill lakes area is a place that makes Florida special, saying "Florida is defined by its water resources."

The karst geology of this region connects the deep, clear lakes to the Floridan aquifer.  The sandhills are such a unique area they are home to rare plant and animal species – some of which have not even been formally named.

Bay and Washington County could avoid a water war if the Northwest Florida Water Management District promoted conservation instead of more groundwater pumping.  The Washington County News reported from the well-attended community meeting and reported on Draper's comments:  “It is important that the water management district not issue the permit without measuring what the effect would be.”

Draper was joined at the Washington County hearing by Audubon Board member and President of Bay County Audubon Society Neil Lamb.  Earlier in the day the two toured Florida Audubon Society’s Beulah A. Laidlaw Preserve , now managed by Bay County Audubon Society.

Laidlaw is a great place to watch birds, which frequent the wetlands and lakes there.  In just a short visit to the Preserve,  Draper and company managed to spot a Red-Shouldered Hawk, Pine Warblers, Palm Warblers and a juvenile Eastern PhoebeBoy Scout Build Bird Blind A local Boy Scout Troop built a wonderful birding blind and built benches for the pole barn on the far end of the bog.  Laidlaw Preserve is truly one of Florida's Special Places.

For more information on upcoming meetings regarding the Washington County Water Wells, contact Michael J. DeRuntz, CFM, Senior Planner for Washington County, Florida at 850-415-5093 or email at

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