This article is excerpted from Wave Maker’s News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.Rainbow River spring head during a low flow event. Photo courtesy of SWFWMD.Florida may be surrounded by water, but providing clean, fresh drinking water for a growing population and competing interests groups while still protecting the environment is a constant struggle. In response to this challenge, Florida law requires that the state’s five water management district establish minimum flow and levels (MFLs) for waterways in their district that prevent “significant ecological harm.” Basically, MFLs define how often and for how long high, average and low water levels and/or flows should be allowed to occur in lakes, rivers, streams, springs and estuaries. While allowing for flexibility and change, the ultimate goal of MFLs is to prevent long-term or irreversible ecological damage. Setting MFLs at high enough levels to sustain or replenish ecosystems is critical to the health of Florida’s waters.Unfortunately, our fragile waterways are threatened by ever-increasing water use by municipalities and large industrial users such as Progress Energy. The depletion of freshwater will be amplified by the weakening of minimum flows to up to 15% less than our already severely strained water levels!Maintaining adequate water quantity is vital to water quality and ecosystem health and GRN will continue to lead the effort to create a sustainable water budget approach for Florida waters.Cathy Harrelson is GRN’s Florida Organizer.