An overview of water management district permitting
Charged with ensuring the sustainable use of Florida’s water for people and natural systems, the St. Johns River Water Management District’s regulatory program works diligently to protect water resources as staff assist permit applicants. The district’s online permitting system, known as ePermit, provides the public and applicants a convenient way to apply for permits or search for permit information. Applicants who need help preparing their application can arrange a pre-application conference with a district engineer or environmental specialist; support is also available by phone or email.
The district commonly issues two types of permits:
A consumptive use permit (CUP) typically allows water to be withdrawn from groundwater or surface water for reasonable-beneficial uses — such as public supply (drinking water), agricultural and landscape irrigation, commercial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).
The consumptive use permitting program requires water conservation to prevent wasteful uses, requires the reuse of reclaimed water instead of higher-quality groundwater where appropriate, and sets limits on how much water can be withdrawn from water bodies and the aquifer. These limits protect existing residents’ water supplies and protect springs, lakes and rivers from harm.
Consumptive use permitting regulations ensure that existing water users, our water resources and the environment are protected. To make certain that water users meet the criteria, district 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 as well as 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 stormwater when available instead of higher-quality potable groundwater when it is feasible.
Only the district’s Governing Board may issue CUPs authorizing large water uses. The district’s Governing Board must also consider all permit applications that district staff have recommended for denial.
An environmental resource permit (ERP) 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. ERP applications may be submitted online through the ePermit system. If you need assistance completing your application, you may contact the district.
Unless specifically exempt or below the permitting thresholds, anyone proposing construction of new facilities such as residential, commercial, governmental or institutional, or anyone proposing work in, on or over wetlands or other surface waters, must obtain an ERP prior to beginning construction. The ERP rule criteria are designed to protect water quantity, water quality and wetland functions. If wetland or other surface water impacts will occur, mitigation will likely be required to offset adverse impacts to wetland or other surface water functions.
An ERP permit is issued for a specific purpose and the project must be constructed in accordance with the approved plans and associated permit conditions. Permit holders are responsible for complying with the terms of the permit and demonstrating that the project has been built as authorized. Each construction permit has a limited duration, usually five years, and once the construction activities are successfully completed the construction permit must be converted to a perpetual operation and maintenance phase.
In addition to CUPs and ERPs, the district also issues several types of ERP-agriculture permits and water well construction permits (WWCs).
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Public input is an important part of the district’s permitting process. The public is welcome to provide written comments on any application or provide in-person input on permit applications being considered by the Governing Board. Governing Board meeting dates and agendas are online.