Collaboration is the key to success in District’s work to protect water
Jan. 28, 2021
District cost-share is one way the District is collaborating with local and regional partners to benefit water resources. Governing Board Secretary Susie Dolan speaks at the Dec. 3, 2020, groundbreaking ceremony for a water quality improvement and wastewater treatment facility expansion cost-share project in Leesburg, as District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle looks on.
In this weekly message and in my presentations, I often mention the many partnerships and collaborations which play a major role in how the St. Johns River Water Management District accomplishes its work to protect water resources.
Staff members from all areas of our organization work daily in partnership with individuals outside of our agency, often behind the scenes. District staff proactively reach out to local government and utilities officials and other stakeholders to provide technical assistance, share data such as rainfall and water quantity and computer models, and contribute to scientific surveys and field work. Staff also share knowledge and experience regularly with those in local, state and federal agencies, our counterparts at other water management districts and citizen and stakeholder groups. Many also share their passion for water resources through contributions to their professional organizations, strengthening not only their individual professions, but the future of water protection and water conservation.
Among the many ways we are collaborating with others:
- Water supply planning. We collaboratively work on regional water supply plans and with affected stakeholders across water management district boundaries to ensure consistency and to address our collective reliance on the Floridan aquifer.
- Minimum flows and levels (MFLs). We work with stakeholders to establish protective measures for waterways using field-based assessments, data and scientific literature to make sound water management decisions and prevent significant adverse impacts to waterways due to water withdrawals. MFLs define the limits at which further water withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of an area.
- Resiliency. We ensure that resiliency is included in all aspects of the District’s work, including restoration projects and flood water management, as well as assisting communities and utilities adapt to changes such as sea-level rise.
- Florida Red Tide Task Force. Staff work on this and other statewide initiatives, sharing scientific expertise and data to identify causes and solutions to water quality challenges, such as harmful algal blooms.
- Public lands. District land managers work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Forest Service, state parks and local governments on land management and recreational opportunities. The District and the federal government (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) have collaborated on restoring the headwaters of the St. Johns River by conserving and restoring wetlands and creating impoundments that improve water quality and increase water supplies while providing flood protection. This project has also greatly reduced harmful discharges of freshwater and nutrients to the Indian River Lagoon.
- Statewide emergency management. Staff coordinate year-round to prepare for and respond to a host of natural disasters, help staff the statewide headquarters in Tallahassee during emergencies such as hurricanes and aid in deploying and operating pumping equipment to help alleviate localized flooding. The District’s collaborations on prescribed fire treatments not only keep our conservation lands healthy but also provide our District team with the skills to deploy across the country to help fight wildfires as needed.
- Water Resource Development Projects. The District focuses on the design and construction of water resource development projects that provide water quality, natural systems restoration, and water supply benefits. The District routinely coordinates with local governments and other stakeholders seeking partnerships that support and contribute funding toward these regionally significant projects.
- Cost-share opportunities. The Bureaus of Project Management, Water Supply Planning and the Governmental Affairs Program staffs work with local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the year to provide guidance on cost-share funding opportunities with the District. Annual cost-share programs include the Districtwide (local governments and NGOs); Rural and Economic Development Initiative / Innovative; and Agricultural programs. Our Blue School Grant Program provides educational resources to help children understand the value of water.
- Participation in scientific and other professional organizations. Our staff contribute to numerous water-related technical, scientific and professional organizations around the state and nation.
Collaboration helps us use the latest information and knowledge in our work, saves time and taxpayer money, and builds lasting relationships that ultimately benefit Florida’s water resources. We achieve so much more for the overall wellbeing of our communities — and our water — when we work together.