The South Florida Water Management District is developing a series of water reservation rules to secure the long-term availability of water for thousands of fish and wildlife species throughout the region.
When a water reservation rule is in place, volumes and timing of water at specific locations are protected for the natural system ahead of new consumptive uses such as urban water supply wells or development. A water reservation is a legal mechanism to set aside water from consumptive uses for the protection of fish and wildlife or public health and safety, authorized by Sec. 373.223 (4) Florida Statutes. The District uses water reservations to meet requirements in both state and federal law for the protection of water identified for the natural system as part of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) implementation.
A water reservation rule is developed following a series of public workshops and receiving stakeholder input. Once a rule is adopted, it is then implemented through the District's consumptive use permitting and water supply planning programs.
Two water reservation rules, for the Picayune Strand (January 2009) and the St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon (February 2010), have already been adopted. Work continues on rules for two CERP projects – the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir and the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project – Phase 1.
On this page you will find extensive information about water reservation rule development process. Meeting schedules and notices, technical analysis and reports, draft or final rule language and presentations can be viewed in the sections below.
Restoration of a healthy, productive Caloosahatchee Estuary is essential to maintaining the ecological integrity and associated economic benefits of this unique habitat on Florida's southwest coast. A water reservation rule is proposed to support ongoing restoration plans for this region. Restoration projects include construction of a 170,000 acre-feet aboveground reservoir, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The reservoir will reduce the amount of freshwater flows into the estuary from basin runoff and discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The project will also help to maintain a desirable minimum flow of fresh water to the estuary during dry periods.
Maintaining the availability of water is a key component of environmental restoration and management affecting the Upper Chain of Lakes and the Kissimmee River and floodplain. Together, these remarkable Central Florida water bodies shelter 45 species of fish, 68 species of wetland-dependent birds, 24 species of reptiles and amphibians and mammals including the marsh rabbit, river otter and round-tailed muskrat. Ultimately, all of these species are as dependent on water and the success of other wildlife in their shared habitat.
To assure water for the protection of fish and wildlife within the Upper Chain of Lakes and restored Kissimmee River and floodplain, the South Florida Water Management District is developing rules to reserve water for those purposes. The District, State of Florida and the United States government have provided substantial support for restoration of these ecosystems. To date, $620 million has been invested in projects encompassing 19 lakes and 103 miles of river and floodplain. This accounts for 27,000 acres of wetland habitat critical to the protection of fish and wildlife, including endangered or threatened species. Reservations will guarantee that the water needed to keep these ecosystems thriving will not be allocated for consumptive use.
The process to reserve water for the Everglades reached a major milestone when the South Florida Water Management District began the rulemaking process in 2008 to set aside water to protect the Picayune Strand and Fakahatchee Estuary ecosystems. It is the first water reservation to move forward as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), and the South Florida Water Management District's first water reservation. A panel of scientists reviewed the technical information used to quantify and reserve water needed for the protection of fish and wildlife, then members of the public participated in workshops on the peer review process and associated rule development. At the end of that process, the Governing Board adopted the final rule in January 2009.
Reducing high-volume discharges of fresh water to the St. Lucie Estuary, providing a more natural quantity, quality, timing and distribution of inflows to the estuary and restoring the North Fork of the St. Lucie River and its floodplain represent key elements of the Indian River Lagoon – South Recommended Plan. The St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon is home to more than 4,000 species, including 35 species listed as endangered or threatened, making it the most diverse estuarine environment in North America. The lagoon supports multimillion-dollar fishing, tourism, agricultural and recreational industries.
Extreme salinity variations and ever-increasing inflows have contributed to major changes in the natural communities within the estuary, as seen by seagrass and oyster losses. Restoring a more natural volume, timing and distribution of flows to the river and estuary will give its native plant and animal life a better opportunity for recovery.
The South Florida Water Management District developed rules to reserve water for the protection of fish and wildlife within the North Fork of the St. Lucie River in the dry season. the rule was adopted in February 2010. The District, State of Florida and the United States government have provided substantial support for restoration of these ecosystems, which are included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Reservations will ensure that the St. Lucie River as well as the estuary and southern Indian River Lagoon fully benefit from CERP.