Move Over, Health Care: Florida’s Biggest Future Challenge is Water

Move Over, Health Care: Florida’s Biggest Future Challenge is Water

Water could be the biggest challenge Florida faces over the next 20 years.

Florida’s water infrastructure is in dire need of help, Florida Water Advocates (FWA) told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday.

The state relies on water to propel its two most lucrative industries: tourism and agriculture. And, that’s on top of what’s needed to quench the needs of Florida’s growing population, a segment tied to a third economic driver in Florida – construction.

But, with its critical need for water and the economic consequences of it, Florida has only invested 0.2 percent of its budget on water over the past five years. Frank Bernardino, of FWA, said the state “got out to a bang” after it implemented a dedicated revenue source for water sustainability in 2005, under SB 444. But, even in the good years, the funding was a mere 0.7 percent of total state spending. When the fiscal crisis hit, he said, water was one of the first items to be cut.

Now, Florida is looking down the barrel of a fiscal pounding over the next decade. Upcoming regulations and essential improvements to Florida’s water systems are estimated to cost tens of billions. Cardno Entrix, a Florida-based water consulting company, calculated it will cost $1 billion to $3.2 billion to implement federal water mandates. But, that pales in comparison to the nearly $25 billion for drinking and wastewater treatment facilities needed within a decade, along with a further $7 billion for repairs to delivery systems.

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