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An overview of water management district permitting

The two most common types of permits issued by Florida's five water management districts address how much water may be used and address the impact of new development and construc­tion activities on water resources.

The first type of permit, which authorizes water use, is a con­sumptive use permit (CUP). A CUP typically allows water to be withdrawn from ground­water or surface water for reasonable-beneficial uses — such as public supply (drinking water), agricultural and land­scape irrigation, commercial use, and power generation — in a manner that does not inter­fere with other existing legal water uses and protects water resources from harm (such as saltwater intrusion and drying up of wetlands, lakes and springs).

CUPs require water conservation to prevent wasteful uses, such as the reuse of reclaimed water (treated wastewater) or storm water instead of higher quality groundwater, and set limits on how much water can be withdrawn at each location in the aquifer or from surface water. These limits protect existing residents' water supplies and protect aquifers, lakes and rivers from harm.

The second permit is an environmental resource permit (ERP), which authorizes new development or construction activities to occur in a manner that will prevent adverse flooding, manage surface water, and protect water quality, wetlands, and other surface waters.

ERPs prevent flooding, protect the water quality of Florida's lakes and streams from stormwater pollution, and protect wetlands and other surface waters.

Large water users, such as agricultural users, are required to obtain a consumptive use permit.

Large water users, such as agricultural users, are required to obtain a consumptive use permit.

Who needs a CUP?

Consumptive use permitting regulations have many thresholds, but the three situations which most frequently require a permit are:

  • You want to withdraw water from a well that measures six inches or more in diameter
  • You use or want to use an annual average of 100,000 gallons of water or more per day
  • You have the capacity to pump 1 million gallons of water or more per day

How do you obtain a CUP?

To make certain that water users meet the criteria, district engineers and hydrologists review permit applications and conduct site inspections.

Each permit applicant is required to:

  • Submit a water conservation plan, providing measures to reduce water use and preserve water resources for other beneficial uses
  • Investigate and use the lowest acceptable quality source of water. For example, golf courses and other large users of water for landscape irrigation are required to use reclaimed water or storm water when available instead of higher quality potable groundwater.

What happens after a CUP is issued?

Golf courses and other large users of water are required to use the lowest acceptable quality source of water for irrigation.

Golf courses and other large users of water are required to use the lowest acceptable quality source of water for irrigation.

Each permit authorizes water use for a particular purpose and contains a number of permit conditions that must be followed by the water user. All water users are responsible for implementing their approved water conservation plan and reporting their total monthly water use every six months. Each permit has a limited duration and must be renewed upon expiration. At that time, the district reviews the permit again.

Who needs an ERP?

ERPs were first required in 1995. They combine the former wetland dredge and fill permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Management and Storage of Surface Waters permit issued by the water management districts. Anyone proposing construction of new facilities, including governmental agencies, developers building new residential or commercial areas, or anyone who wants to fill in wetlands must have an ERP prior to beginning work and may be required to mitigate for impacts.

How do you obtain an ERP?

ERP applications may be obtained online, or by calling or writing the district. If you need help in preparing the application, you can arrange a pre-application conference with a district engineer or environmental specialist, or you can call if you have questions that can be answered by phone. Most ERP applications involve a site visit by a district environmental specialists.

What happens after an ERP is issued?

A permit is issued for a specific purpose and contains a number of conditions that must be followed. Permit holders are responsible for implementing these conditions and filing whatever reports may be necessary, including an as-built certification upon completion of construction. Each permit has a limited duration for construction, usually five years.

On the St. Johns River Water Management district's website, you can search for application and permit information and regulatory rules, forms and meeting information. You can also create and maintain a login ID that enables you to submit permit applications, submit permit compliance information, and subscribe to electronic noticing of application receipt and intended permit issuance decisions.

Online applications that are currently available include the contractor licensing (new and renewals); water well construction permits (WWCs); consumptive use permits (CUPs), new, renewal and modifications; CUP notice of general permits; environmental resource permits (ERPs), new and modifications; and ERP-agriculture (silviculture) permits. All compliance submittals may also be submitted on this site.


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St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
(800) 725-5922