Florida has abundant surface water resources including:

In addition to its abundant surface water resources, Florida also sits atop the most plentiful freshwater aquifers in the United States, which supply water to hundreds of springs and provide the base flow for many of Florida's rivers and streams. The state's surface and ground water resources are intimately connected and support our drinking water supplies, agriculture, industry, wildlife habitat, and a thriving recreation-based economy.

Comprehensive Plan Requirements

Future Land Use Element

Section 163.3177(6)(a), Florida Statutes, requires that each comprehensive plan contain:

A future land use plan element designating proposed future general distribution, location, and extent of the uses of land for residential uses, commercial uses, industry, agriculture, recreation, conservation, education, public facilities, and other categories of the public and private uses of land.

Among other requirements, the future land use element, including future land use map designations and map amendments, must "[e]nsure the protection of natural and historic resources." Section 163.3177(6)(a)3.f., Florida Statutes.

Conservation Element

Section 163.3177(6)(d), Florida Statutes, governing the conservation element of local government comprehensive plans, requires that local governments identify and analyze their water resources. It further requires that a local government include in its comprehensive plan principles, guidelines, and programs for conservation that:

Conserves, appropriately uses, and protects the quality and quantity of current and projected water sources and waters that flow into estuarine waters or oceanic waters and protect from activities and land uses known to affect adversely the quality and quantity of identified water sources, including natural groundwater recharge areas, wellhead protection areas, and surface waters used as a source of public water supply.

Permitting Programs (Federal, State, Regional)

Section 163.3177(1)(e), Florida Statutes, provides that "[w]hen a federal, state, or regional agency has implemented a regulatory program, a local government is not required to duplicate or exceed that regulatory program in its local comprehensive plan." However,

  • A local government has the authority to exceed the requirements of a federal, state, or regional regulatory program if it concludes that greater protection is appropriate or desirable (unless the statute that creates the program expressly states that the regulatory authority of the federal, state, or regional agency is exclusive, which few statutes do).
  • Local governments should have a thorough understanding of a federal, state, or regional permitting program on which they will rely to ensure that the protections the local government deems appropriate are in fact included in the federal, state, or regional program.

Local Government Land Use Planning

Development and use of buildings and roads, agriculture, and other byproducts of human development can negatively impact the quality of Florida's water resources. Local governments can use their land use planning authority to minimize adverse effects of development on water resources within their jurisdictions. Some steps that local governments can take to protect water resources include:

  • Limiting density and intensity of development adjacent or in close proximity to the water resource.
  • Providing for a transfer of development rights away from water resources and establishing incentives for such transfers.
  • Limiting or restricting the use of septic systems in close proximity to water resources in order to prevent infiltration of nitrates into the water resource. Nitrates act as fertilizers that encourage the growth of algae and non-native plants that destroy the natural environment.
  • Requiring wastewater treatment facilities that treat to nitrate removal standards and those that do not discharge to Rapid Infiltration Basins and sprayfields.
  • Regulating the placement and management of golf courses, and requiring that golf courses use nutrient management plans and practices to limit the application of nitrate fertilizers.
  • Requiring that suburban/urban development in vulnerable landscapes is on central sewer that can treat to advanced standards to remove nitrates.
  • Where septic systems are allowed, providing for lower densities (e.g., density 1DU/10 acres or less) or requiring the use of performance-based septic systems with regular system management regimens.
  • Implementing nutrient limiting management practices for yards/lawns and landscaping that limit the application of nitrate fertilizers.
  • Requiring water conservation in the planning and design of communities to encourage the use of less water for community needs.
  • Educating citizens on the impacts of use and development adjacent or in close proximity to water resources and ways they can help minimize those impacts.
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