Land into Water--Water into Land: A History of Water Management in Florida

By Nelson Manfred Blake | Go to book overview
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12 Water for the Future

I n 1963 the Florida Geological Survey issued a pamphlet in which it confidently concluded that the state's water resources were sufficient to meet all expected growth. Annual average rainfall was 53 inches, or 148 billion gallons a day. Under the hot Florida sun some 108 billion gallons a day evaporated or were utilized by vegetation, but this left 40 billion gallons a day to replenish rivers, lakes, and aquifers and this was eight times the amount currently being used. The pamphlet boasted of Florida's many lakes, both natural and artificial. Four major dams on the Apalachicola, Ochlocknee, Withlacoochee, and Oklawaha rivers backed up a total of 187 billion gallons of water. There were 182 large springs, more than in any other state. Silver Springs alone discharged 500 million gallons a day, "enough to satisfy Florida's municipal and rural and domestic needs, if it could be distributed to the place of need." Underlying most of the state was the remarkable Floridan Aquifer, estimated to contain between 800 and 1,000 cubic miles of water -- one hundred times the amount impounded in Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam.1

In other words, why worry? Yet nine years later the legislature was enacting a series of laws providing for conservation and management of the state's water resources to ensure an adequate supply for the future. Why this striking change of mood? The 1963 document was a typical example of Florida boosterism, extolling the state's resources and inviting more industry, more farming, more tourists, and more residents. The 1972 legislation reflected the rise of environmentalism with its insistence that not all growth was good. Growth was bad when it resulted in polluted lakes, rivers, and bayfronts; growth was bad when it led to breakdowns in the water supply and salt intrusion into the wellfields; growth was bad when it destroyed the mangrove swamps and drained vital marshlands. By 1972 it had become obvious that the state had water problems. For one thing, the most

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