Laura Jacobs Donaldson
Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn, PA
For many water users in central Florida, running out of groundwater, a less expensive water source, has been a concern for many years. Arising out of an administrative challenge of a substantial public supply consumptive use permit, in 2006, the South Florida Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and St. Johns River Water Management District realized that their combined regional groundwater could no longer meet the growing water needs. They formed the Central Florida Coordination Area, which included Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Polk, and southern Lake Counties, covering approximately 5,300 square miles, to cooperatively plan for their future water supply.
It was determined that the Central Florida Coordination Area had limited traditional groundwater supplies that were not adequate to meet all future demands, necessitating the need to develop alternative water supplies. Regulations were adopted to limit groundwater withdrawals and to set rules for the region’s water resources and use, which have since expired. The Central Florida Coordination Area is the predecessor to the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI). CFWI was formed in 2011 to enable the three water management districts, working with utilities and other stakeholders, to develop a unified process to address central Florida’s current and long-term water supply needs.
Guiding principles were developed, a Steering Committee was created to oversee the CFWI process and provide guidance to a management oversight committee, and technical teams were formed to develop and refine information on this region. Water management district staff and stakeholders spent hundreds of hours of time developing the 2015 Central Florida Water Initiative Guiding Document and developing a single regional water supply plan (2015 CFWI RWSP) for central Florida. The goal of the 2015 CFWI RWSP was to ensure that the region had sufficient water to meet various needs without causing significant harm to water resources and associated natural systems. The 2015 CFWI RWSP concluded that traditional groundwater resources alone cannot meet future water demands or currently permitted allocations without resulting in unacceptable impacts to water resources and related natural systems in this area. Based on the 2035 demands, the resulting deficit was approximately 250 million gallons per day (mgd).
In 2016, the Florida Legislature codified the CFWI by creating section 373.0465, Florida Statutes. The new law required the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and the three water management districts to continue the collaborative process and build upon the prior CFWI work. They were also directed to create a RWSP, including recovery or prevention strategies and a list of water supply development/water resource projects, and to provide a single hydrologic planning model to assess the availability of groundwater within the CFWI area. FDEP, in consultation with the three water management districts and FDACS, was required to adopt rules that would apply uniformly within the CFWI area. These rules must include a definition of “harmful to the water resources”; a methodology for calculating and a goal for residential per capita water use; a single permit review process; a consistent process to set minimum flows and levels and water reservations; and an annual conservation goal for each consumptive use permit. Section 373.0465 required that rulemaking had to be initiated prior to December 31, 2016. FDEP will adopt the CFWI rules and they will be immediately effective within and applied by the three water management districts without further action. (Continue reading here: Fall Newsletter 2020)
For more information regarding CFWI, please review https://floridadep.gov/water-policy/water-policy/content/office-water-policy-rulemaking#Central%20Florida%20Water%20Initiative.
General information, including meeting notices, is available at https://cfwiwater.com/.
Laura Donaldson has represented clients before legislative and executive branches of government, agencies, Cabinet and gubernatorial commissions on growth management, environmental and local government issues. Laura has also been general counsel for local governments and special districts providing guidance related to government, environmental and land use issues. She was the youngest and first female General Counsel for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, where she served for three years.