Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Little Agreement at 'Water Congress' on How to Conserve; Group Meets in Orlando to Discuss Long-Term Solutions for Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Little Agreement at 'Water Congress' on How to Conserve; Group Meets in Orlando to Discuss Long-Term Solutions for Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

ORLANDO -- Water wars like the fight over St. Johns River withdrawals will only grow unless Florida learns to manage its water better, experts and policymakers meeting Thursday said.

But the same group, which included Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton and whose ideas are supposed to help state lawmakers find some solutions, struggled to agree among themselves how to do that.

"My thought is, scratch it," environmental activist Charles Lee said as a circle of delegates at a statewide "water congress" started extended debate about one of a series of ideas that sparked lengthy disagreements.

The ideas were from a package that meeting organizers labeled "consensus recommendations."

The congress was organized by the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, a board the Legislature set up to analyze the state's long-term problems. It will continue today.

The focus is on meeting the state's water needs for the next 50 years, with most delegates agreeing that conservation and reuse of water are the most immediate answers.

"If we don't conserve water, we don't have water 50 years from now," said Rebecca Griffith, planning division chief for the Army Corps of Engineers office in Jacksonville, as delegates debated ideas in several small groups.

Research circulated to the delegates said Florida's water use increased 600 percent between 1950 and 2005, and speakers warned that utilities, farms and others are likely to be competing for very limited water in coming years.

Peyton suggested twice-weekly watering restrictions similar to those adopted in Jacksonville this year might be set up statewide. That idea picked up supporters, including the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, who said she didn't think any landscaping commonly used in Florida required water more than twice a week. …

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