Florida’s rivers streams, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters are spectacularly beautiful. Additionally, they are natural resources that supply water necessary for aquatic life, drinking water, recreation, industry, fishing and shelling harvesting; and agriculture. Because water is the foundation of life, it is important to understand the consequences of our actions and impacts on our water resources.
Florida’s Legislature and Governor Rick Scott directs millions of dollars each year towards restoration, outreach, monitoring and research. Leading the nation in tackling storm water pollution, Florida was one of the first states to implement a storm water management program starting in the 1970’s. The state also became one of the first to add a regulatory approach to traditional unregulated agricultural and urban storm water sources in its restoration program.
Under the Clean Water Act, EPA requires states to submit lists of surface waters that don’t meet applicable water quality standards after implementation of technology based effluent limitations and establish TMDLs. Based on the ruling from Judge Robert L. Hinkle, the EPA gave the Department consent to modify our own numeric nutrients criteria that Florida bases their water quality standards on. The result will be the most comprehensive numeric nutrients criteria in the nation.
Numeric Nutrients Criteria measure levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. The values are set to protect public health and the aquatic ecosystems from the harmful effects of nutrient pollution. The Department scientifically evaluates the quality of Florida’s surface waters and promotes the mechanisms necessary to clean up the pollution. Under the Watershed Restoration Act of 1999, the federal Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program was implemented to establish how much pollution water bodies could assimilate, but still be able to meet water quality standards. The Act directed the Department to report to the Governor and Florida Legislature five years after the implementation of the TMDL program and recommend statutory change necessary to improve it.
The TMDL is the goal that waterbodies must meet into order to become no longer impaired. To do so, a Basin Management Restoration Plan (BMAP) is developed by local stakeholders. BMAPs represent a comprehensive set of strategies including permit limits on wastewater facilities, urban and agricultural best management practices, conservation programs, financial assistance and revenue generating activities. BMAPs are designed to implement the pollution reductions established by the TMDL. In order for the BMAP to become enforceable, it must be adopted by the Secretarial Order.