FFBF Provides Comment for the Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan

June 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The South Florida Water Management District (SFMWD) manages five different Water Supply Planning Regions throughout their 16-county geographic boundary. These water supply plans are updated every five years and were developed to assess and project water demands and potential sources of water through 20-year planning horizon. The plan updates are used by local governments, water users and utilities to update and modify local comprehensive plans, facility work plans and ordinances.

The Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan (LEC WSP) area includes Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and parts of Monroe, Collier, and Hendry counties. The South Florida Water Management District is developing the 2023-2024 Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan Update (2023-2024 LEC Plan Update) to assess projected water demands and potential sources of water for the period from 2021 to 2045.

The Lower East Coast Planning Area has a growing population and limited freshwater resources. Because freshwater resources are limited, the 2023-2024 LEC Plan Update focuses on other water supply sources, such as reverse osmosis to treat brackish groundwater, reclaimed water, storage options, seasonal surface water and water conservation to address future demands.

Florida Farm Bureau Federation remains very involved in all statewide Water Supply Plans, commenting regularly to ensure agriculture’s right to adequate water supply to stay in business. Comments on the LECWSP arose due to concerns over inadequate incorporation of the new Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule and its effect on agricultural water supply.

Below are the comments that were submitted to the LEC plan manager.

“On behalf of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and our 132,000 member families, many of which live and farm within the boundaries of the Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan (LEC WSP) area, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan Update.

We have remaining concerns regarding how the upcoming Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) will be handled in the Water Supply Plan Update. Uncertainty remains on how to create and implement this plan without knowing what the lake schedule will be. The way that the schedule is described in the current LOSOM Water Control Plan does not provide the certainty and predictability needed for uniform and reliable operations. When we go back and review prior water supply plans, heavy reliance is placed on the lake regulation schedule, and with current LOSOM operations, and its inability to meet the lake’s MFL, we have no way of knowing how this will affect water supply.

Due to these concerns, we would like to request a delay in the plan process.

Florida Farm Bureau Federation greatly appreciates the District’s openness and willingness to listen to the concerns of our industry. We are thankful for the opportunity to provide these comments and look forward to continued collaboration.”

For more information, please contact the Florida Farm Bureau Federation Government and Community Affairs Division.