by Bradley Parsons
Staff Writer, Jacksonville Daily Record
The City will “vigorously defend” its
water supply against encroachment from overdeveloped South
Florida, Mayor John Peyton said Wednesday.
A recently released report from the Florida
Council of 100, an influential real estate lobbying group,
suggested that fresh-water-poor South Florida would have to seek
water elsewhere to keep pace with planned development. The
Council recommended replacing regional water management with a
statewide commission with the authority to divert North
Florida’s vast water supply south.
Responding to questions about that report,
Peyton said the state’s lower half should look elsewhere for its
water. Jacksonville has managed its growth, he said, and should
not be held liable for other cities’ mismanagement.
“I think if communities outside our region
are irresponsible in their growth and they expect us to carry
the water for them, so to speak, then there needs to be a
re-evaluation in their thinking,” said Peyton. “If they
experience explosive growth and they can’t keep up with it,
either through resources or infrastructure, then they need to be
accountable for it.
“It was their municipality and their
government that didn’t plan adequately and there’s a certain
amount of responsibility that has to be owned by the region.”
Peyton suggested alternatives to dipping into
North Florida’s fresh water supply. Water could be imported,
reclaimed, re-used he said. Desalination — the removal of salt
from seawater — is a costly but increasingly effective option.
Tampa recently built a plant to subsidize its water supply.
"We’re sitting on a peninsula; we’re
surrounded by water; we’ll never run out of water,” said Peyton.
“The question is: How much do you want to pay?
“The communities that have experienced
explosive growth that have not accounted for natural resources
like water are going to be responsible for seeking a remedy.
It’s going to cost them more.”
According to the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. which will
hold an Oct. 16 forum on the impending water wars, over 80
percent of water consumed statewide is used by residents south
of Interstate 4, running from Tampa to Daytona Beach. More than
80 percent of the State’s available water sits north of that
Joining Peyton in advocating local water
management is the JEA. The utility released Tuesday a policy
paper, which states that the Council of 100’s recommendations
“represent a fundamental change in the way water supply is
managed in Florida.
“JEA does not support a policy change of this
magnitude,” the paper said.
The current structure provides for better
long-term planning for the use of resources said the paper,
which received approval from the board of directors.
The State already has statutory authority to
transfer water among its districts, however the current policy
requires local sources to be considered prior to dipping into
another region’s supply. This framework helps ensure sustainable
growth the paper said.