Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What authority does the St. Johns River Water Management District have to make rules regarding the use of water?
The Florida Water Resources Act of 1972 resulted in the creation of five regional water management districts and established a permit system for allocating water use.
Why conserve water? Doesn’t Florida normally get plenty of rain?
Florida’s public water supply is dependent on underground aquifers that have collected rainfall for millions of years. Fickle weather cycles with abundant rain followed by drought cannot replace the millions of gallons of water that are used daily by a growing population. Although Florida receives an average of 50 to 55 inches of rain per year, about 65 percent of that evaporates. Only a small percentage of total rainfall replenishes the ground and surface water supplies. Conservation is easy, not to mention much more cost-efficient than other alternatives.
Although alternative sources of drinking water are being considered in areas that are likely to experience significant water supply challenges, these alternatives — such as desalination and surface water withdrawal — will require extensive treatment before being drinkable. Thus, alternatives will be much more expensive. Conservation is the foundation for meeting our future water supply needs.
What does the district do to ensure the watering restrictions are followed?
Our primary focus is education. The district believes that if people know the restrictions, and that they can maintain a healthy lawn by complying, they will follow them.
The district also coordinates with local governments and encourages them to enforce the restrictions through use of local ordinances.
When can I wash my car?
Car washing is not restricted, but the district encourages everyone to follow water-conserving measures when possible. Wash your car on the grass so the water can absorb back into the ground, and remember to use an automatic shutoff nozzle on your hose.
Some residential developments water their common areas every day during the restricted hours. Why are they allowed to water between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.?
These developments may be using reclaimed water, which is wastewater that has been thoroughly treated to remove harmful organisms and substances so it can be reused. The use of water from a reclaimed water system is allowed anytime. Reclaimed water is commonly used to irrigate golf courses, residential landscapes, corporate grounds and sports fields. It can be used for industrial heating and cooling, for car washes and to replenish wetlands during times of drought. Using reclaimed water helps stretch drinkable water supplies and also disposes of large quantities of treated wastewater in an environmentally sound manner.
Using reclaimed water where it is appropriate leaves us with greater supplies of fresh, pure drinking water.
Does the district have any impact on how much I pay, or what company I pay, for water?
The district is not the governing body that decides what utility can provide water or specifically how much water should cost. It does, however, influence these factors through the rules and policies it upholds.
When a water utility applies for a consumptive use permit from the district, the agency generally requires the utility to implement a “water conservation rate structure.” This is a structured increase in the cost-per-gallon for increased water use.
For example, if a utility charges a dollar for the minimum water usage, say 5,000 gallons or less, it would have to charge more for usage from 5,000 to 10,000 gallons, say $1.50, and so on for every increase.
Does the district issue permits for the drilling of individual residential wells?
No. Private wells are permitted at the county government level.
I have recently purchased a new home and found that our private well has high levels of iron and chlorides, as well as a high bacteria count. We are having another well drilled but would like to know more about which agency to turn to with questions about our well.
The district does not regulate private well users through its consumptive use permitting process, though in a few counties, such as Flagler County, the district does issue well construction permits. The district’s rules, which detail proper well construction methods necessary to protect the quality of water underground, need to be followed for all well construction. (The rules do not specify well depths required to guarantee water availability.) After a well is constructed, a completion report should be filed with the district.
Local governments are responsible for protecting domestic self supply (private well) water users by issuing permits and regulating well depths and well construction criteria. In most counties, including Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Nassau and Baker, the local health department is the agency that issues drinking well construction permits.
How deep should a drinking water well be?
Where you are in the district’s 18 counties determines how deep your well must be to get water. For instance, in central Florida, the Floridan aquifer is 100 to 200 feet beneath the land’s surface. In north-central Florida, the aquifer is close to the ground’s surface. In the northeastern and southeastern portions of the district, the top of the Floridan aquifer can be as much as 450 feet below land surface.
Intermediate aquifers, where present, are generally found at depths less than 150 feet below land surface. Surficial aquifers are found closest to land surface and are generally less than 50 feet deep.
Remember, if you construct a well during a high water level period and stop drilling when you reach water, the well may not be deep enough to produce during low water levels (dry periods), especially if inadequate pumping equipment has been installed.
Does the quality of my water depend on the depth of my well?
It depends on where you live. Water from deeper wells is generally better than water from shallow wells because deeper aquifers are less susceptible to contamination from the land’s surface. Because there are wide variations in water quality throughout the district, it is best to check with your local county health department or building department.
What are the district boundaries?
The district is responsible for regulating water use and protecting wetlands, waterways and drinking water supplies in all or part of 18 counties. Counties entirely in the district are Brevard, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia. Counties partially in the district are Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Lake, Marion, Okeechobee, Orange and Osceola. (See map)
What is the district’s role in preventing flooding?
The district works with residents, local governments and other agencies to minimize flood concerns in a variety of ways. Through its permitting program, the district ensures that drainage systems are adequate to handle severe weather and that construction will not adversely affect an area’s natural drainage features. By protecting and restoring floodplain and wetland systems, the district provides natural flood protection. Water control structures on some district properties in the southern end of its 18-county region provide additional flood protection. The district also helps communities before and after flooding with planning and funding assistance related to flooding, and with emergency response.
What does the district do to manage water levels?
The district manages water levels for various lakes in the Upper St. Johns River Basin project area in Indian River and Brevard counties, and the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin in Lake County. Lake levels are dropped to their lowest just prior to the rainy season. During the drier months, lake levels are maintained at a higher elevation. In addition, the district manages water levels through establishing minimum flows and levels for springs, wetlands, lakes and portions of the St. Johns River.
The drastic changes that you may notice from year to year are based on rainfall amounts. Most lake levels are rainfall-driven, and the district has limited control of those levels.
Who is responsible for maintaining local drainage canals?
Responsibility rests with either the county, local municipality or local water control district, depending on the location of the canal.
Are motorized vehicles allowed to travel on levees or similar water control structures?
No. Only district vehicles are allowed on levees for property maintenance purposes and for safety reasons.
What can I do to prepare for the rainy and hurricane seasons?
Who is responsible for maintaining stormwater ponds in private subdivisions?
The responsibility rests with the homeowners association, not the district. As long as the pond functions properly, the homeowners association generally dictates the shoreline landscape design. The district does not regulate aesthetics.
What causes algal blooms?
Most challenges facing our region’s surface waters are human-induced, and algal blooms are no exception. Algae are natural and exist in water bodies worldwide, but an out-of-control algal bloom can have disastrous effects. Algal blooms are often encouraged by nutrient-rich runoff that is washed into water bodies from developed residential and agricultural areas when it rains. Just as fertilizers and nutrients increase plant growth in your yard, they encourage algal growth in rivers and lakes. These blooms are detrimental because they block sunlight from reaching underwater plants. As submersed aquatic vegetation dies and water bodies become less like their natural state, oxygen levels in the water lessen and water quality degrades.
Who is in charge of the water management district?
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Governor’s Office have oversight of the water management districts. An appointed, nine member Governing Board sets the policies for the water management district. The members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. On a daily basis, an executive director administers the policies set by the Board.