Water is the lifeblood of any farming operation. Many involved in the agriculture sector are working to do all they can to help Florida conserve water and make the most of this essential natural resource.
Tatiana Borisova, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) water resource economist, gave an overview of the water-quality policies and programs in Florida during the March 23 UF/IFAS Citrus Squeezer webinar.
The Office of Agricultural Water Policy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is actively involved in the development of best management practices (BMP) manuals for specific crops, with BMPs addressing both water quality and water conservation.
Furthermore, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is leading the development of plans to restore water quality in rivers, lakes and estuaries referred to as basin management action plans (BMAPs). According to Borisova, BMAPs are plans of action to reduce pollution loading and meet the total limit on pollution, defined as total maximum daily load (TMDL).
A TMDL is a scientific determination of the maximum amount of a given pollutant that a surface water can absorb and still meet the water-quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life. Water bodies that do not meet water-quality standards are identified as “impaired” and TMDLs must be developed, adopted and implemented to reduce those pollutants and clean up the water body.
View locations of TMDLs in Florida.
The Clean Waterways Act, signed into law in June 2020, requires FDACS to perform onsite implementation verification visits every two years at the properties that are enrolled in the FDACS BMP program. During the visit, the FDACS representative will verify that the BMPs are being correctly implemented. Nutrient and fertilizer application records will be obtained. Inspections in the areas covered by the BMAPs are prioritized.
Water conservation is also a top priority for the state. The South Florida Water Management District has created a water-supply plan to meet the region’s increasing water demands.
Researchers believe the most effective way to address water challenges is through conservation, planning and using alternative water supplies to supplement the traditional water supply. This may include reclaimed water use, storing water in an aquifer system and using brackish water from deeper aquifers for drinking water through a reverse osmosis treatment. Florida’s five water management districts also offer funding support for agricultural producers working to improve water-use efficiency and protect the quality of surface and ground water.
Click here to find the water management district in your area.