Conservationists say the glass is half empty …
On Jan. 22, surrounded by swans and against the backdrop of Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, a group of 30 or so conservationists gathered to listen to state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Florida Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, discuss their third draft of the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, a bill they plan to introduce during the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee. The goal of the bill, which has been opposed by municipal water managers in the past because they say it could interfere with protections already in place for the state’s springs, is to restore the state’s waterways and protect them from pollution and overuse.
The event was part of the Clean Water Declaration Campaign, an initiative to gather 100,000 signatures – including those of legislators and the governor – on a petition in support of water conservation. Kickoff events to introduce the petition were held in 16 cities around the state, including in Orlando.
The average Floridian uses about 124 gallons per day, and unrestrained pumping of water from the Floridan Aquifer – the main source of water for Orlando and other Central Florida municipalities – has greatly reduced our supply. There is a limited amount of water available for pumping in the aquifer now, and Orlando’s demand is set to exceed the aquifer’s supply this year.
Technically, this is a quiet year for voters in Florida, but the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment will appear as Amendment 1 on the ballot. The measure would allocate 1 percent of the state’s budget to protect land and water and to ensure that there’s enough clean water for Floridians to drink. Chuck O’Neal, the natural resources committee chair of the League of Women Voters of Florida, says it would cost $378 million a year over the next 10 years to upgrade the state’s water infrastructure and water treatment plants.