white papers

[white pa·per] noun, plural noun: White Papers; plural noun: white paper
1. A government or other authoritative report giving information or proposals on an issue.

The State of Florida funds extensive research on springs chemistry, hydrology, and ecology, and it maintains many monitoring stations for documenting short-term and long-term trends in the health or the degradation of our springs. And, of course, with every legislative appropriations cycle, there are always a number of projects funded by the State to restore or protect springs. What the State doesn’t fund, however, are studies documenting policy options for preserving or restoring springs. Policy studies could and should play a key role in springs restoration, contributing, for example, valuable insights into pros and cons and costs and benefits of various restoration options. A good example of a policy-related paper is “Governor’s Water Resource Commission Final Report, Submitted to Governor Bob Martinez, December 1, 1989”.

To begin to fill this gap in policy analysis, the FSI has developed a relationship with the University of Florida’s Law School Conservation Clinic, a semester-long course for third-year students taught by Professor Tom Ankersen. Students in the Clinic work on a variety of conservation-oriented projects; beginning in the fall of 2017, a number have chosen to research and write policy studies dealing with springs. What follows is a compendium of these students’ white papers, along with other relevant springs policy studies. Law students contributing to these springs papers include Joel Benn, Lauren Grant, Dan Ward, Ashley Weisenfeld, John Pappas, Sasha Alvarenga, and Katie Slattery.

Florida’s Water Resources Act: “Consistent with the Public Interest”

Synopsis: Florida Statute § 373.223(1), which lays out the requirements for obtaining a water-use permit, requires proposed uses of water be “consistent with the public interest.” This Paper offers an alternative to current methods, offering guiding principles the legislature, agencies, or courts should follow to define and apply the public interest test.

Look on The Bright Side: Can Solar Farms Help To Reduce Nitrate Pollution in Florida’s Springs? 2020

Synopsis: The concentration of nitrate-nitrogen, a pollutant in surface and groundwaters, is rising rapidly due to agricultural applications and has led to excessive algae growth in Florida springs. With the expansion of renewable energy use on agricultural land across the United States, solar energy infrastructure on the most polluting agricultural lands in the Sunshine State, specifically North Florida, should be pursued.

Where’s the Harm In This? Defining “Harmful to the Water Resources” in the 2016 Outstanding Florida Springs Legislation, 2019*

Synopsis: In order to accommodate Florida’s unfaltering growth, it is likely that the demand for groundwater will continue to increase, placing additional pressure on already dwindling supplies. It is critical that rulemaking to limit groundwater withdrawals that cause “harm to the water resources” begin sooner rather than later.

Environmental Standing in Administrative Proceedings, 2019

Synopsis: Florida environmental organizations frequently bring administrative challenges against state agencies to safeguard or further their organizational interests. The legal concept known as “standing” has proven to be a major obstacle for environmental groups in bringing these administrative challenges.  Agencies themselves have denied many environmental organizations’ challenges based on their conclusion that the organizations lacked standing.

Using Forest Thinning to Re-Charge the Floridan Aquifer, 2018

Synopsis: Managing forests for water yield has the potential to be used to the benefit of Florida’s springs.  Once the real-world results are repeatable and reasonably predictable, the State should consider using water yield from forestry in determining MFLs and other water supply calculations.

Water Use Fees: An Underutilized Tool for Enhancing Water Conservation in the Sunshine State, 2018

Synopsis: This white paper explores the possibility of expanding the precedent of the use fee structure already in place in Florida beyond mining of minerals to include fees for the use of ground water. Water-use fees could provide a powerful signal to large water users to eliminate unnecessary or marginal water consumption, which would enhance water conservation in a state facing widespread water shortages.

Applying an Agricultural Privilege Tax to Reduce Florida Springs’ Nutrient Pollution, 2018

Synopsis: A regulatory model that was born out of the necessity to comply with Federal law, the Everglades Agricultural Privilege Tax is a unique strategy for meeting water quality standards. With improved technologies and information, this framework could be improved upon in its application to the Outstanding Florida Springs, and would likely speed up their recovery process.

Spring Water Velocity: Protecting Water Quality with Water Quantity Regulation, 2018

Synopsis: Velocity has yet to be significantly addressed in MFLs or in regulation of water withdrawals in general. However, because velocity is directly determined by flow and level, a regime of flows and levels could be adopted to guarantee that sufficient velocity is present to prevent further degradation by algae.

The Role of Septics Advisory Committee In Protecting Florida’s Springs, 2018

Synopsis: The legislative mandate for the “invitation” for the public to participate in “at least one” public meeting on OSTDS remediation is inadequate. Formalizing the OSTDS advisory committees would have a positive impact on springs restoration efforts.

Florida Springs Restoration and Preservation Efforts: Coordinating a Collaborative Adaptive Approach, 2019

Synopsis: The Florida Springs Region in the north and central portions of the state boasts over 1,000 artesian springs that discharge from the Floridan Aquifer System. However, social and economic development in the state has negatively impacted spring flows, reducing spring health and indicating the state’s water supply is imperiled. Adopted legislation and efforts to restore and protect spring flows have failed to reverse the decline. Adaptive governance has been successful in addressing social-ecological problems in many water resource issues. In this study, a gap analysis is used to identify where elements of adaptive governance may need strengthening in the efforts to restore and preserve spring flows in the Florida Springs Region. Recommendations to achieve a more robust and interactive adaptive governance model are provided.

The Case for Universal Water Fees, 2015

Synopsis: It is almost inconceivable that one of the fairest and most effective means of restoring water supplies is not part of the restoration tool-kit. We are referring to water-use fees. It is clearly time to re-consider a policy that hasn’t been part of the political discussion for over two decades. Water fees need to be put back on that agenda. Florida’s political leaders in the past, including a Republican Governor, have had the courage to put this issue before the public. Who has the courage to do that today?*

*This policy paper was originally written for the Florida Springs Institute as a client of the UF Levine College of Law Conservation Clinic and was later selected for publication by the Environmental and Land Use Law Section of the Florida Bar.