Wave Maker’s News: We Are All Connected by Water

This article is excerpted from Wave Makers News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here. Wakulla Springs State Park. Photo courtesy of Bev Norton.Florida springs and rivers need protection – protection they are not getting from water management districts, the state, or the federal government. On February 1st, the Center for Earth Jurisprudence hosted Rights of Springs – a conference on protecting our waters featuring scientists, filmmakers, and legal minds from Florida and across the country.One of the main topics at the conference was the challenge of keeping our waters flowing at healthy levels. Scientists, agencies, and citizens have warned of falling water flows and levels for years. Forty years ago, Florida passed a law to establish minimum flows and levels for our waters, but the law has been poorly enforced and weakened over the years. In fact, no minimum flows and levels have been set at all for larger, “magnitude 1” springs. So much of Florida’s water is already allocated to consumptive use permits for industrial and municipal users that fixing the problem under current and proposed water policy could prove quite challenging and expensive.Our water budget is like our personal financial budget. We must live within our means. Right now, Florida’s water credit card is maxed out, the checkbook is overdrawn, and we’re about to lose our job. What to do?In addition to existing state and federal regulations, many local communities around the country are working to provide greater environmental protection to their citizens. According to one speaker, Mari Margil from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, three dozen cities around the U.S. have passed environmental Bills of Rights to protect their communities from threats like the destruction of ecosystems from fracking, water pollution, industrial agriculture, and the draining of aquifers. Barnstead, New Hampshire was the first community in the nation to ban the corporatization of water withdrawals. However, these rights still face an uphill battle, particularly here in Florida. In recent years, Governor Rick Scott and his allies have worked to wrest environmental oversight from local governments by limiting their ability to regulate nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, interfering with the regional governing boards that oversee water use in the state, and moving to prevent local governments from inspecting septic systems.It’s time for us to find our voice…to stand up and say no. According to Rob Williams, attorney for CEJ, current policy has it backwards, asking only “what is the least amount of water we can keep to maintain the environment? And what is the most amount of pollution we can allow and still have water health?” Rather, we should be asking what it will take to restore and sustain the health and beauty of Florida for all Floridians. We have the right to protect what is ours – the lands and waters we were granted under the Florida Constitution. Ultimately, we must learn how to share – because we are all connected by water.Cathy Harrelson is GRN’s Florida Organizer.

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