TC Palm

Monday, December 28, 2009


South Florida water rules face test in Tallahassee


By BY ANDY REID South Florida Sun Sentinel



Opponents of South Florida’s new year-round watering rules are taking their fight to the Legislature, opting for legislative muscle over courtroom battles.


Legal challenges expected from city, county and private utilities to new landscape irrigation limits approved in November never materialized.


With the appeal deadline now past, the South Florida Water Management District plans to make the switch in mid-January from drought-driven watering restrictions to new year-round standards.


The Legislature, though, ultimately could decide whether the district’s year-round rules, two years in the making, remain.


A coalition of utilities has called on legislators to weigh in on whether the water management district exceeded its authority in imposing year-round, three-times-a-week watering limits.


An attorney for the Legislature’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee last week put the district on notice that an objection to the new watering rules is being considered.


Utilities have objected to permanent watering restrictions, questioning the conservation benefits that come at the expense of water sales revenue and that can lead to increased water rates.


Also, if the year-round rules remain, the utilities don’t want conservation to lead to cutbacks in the amount of water they are permitted to pump out of the ground and siphon from the Everglades for local water supplies.


Even with increased conservation, the utilities argue, larger water withdrawals eventually could be needed for growing populations. They contend that reducing the maximum pumping allowances could force the premature construction of costly new water plants and other water supply facilities, with South Florida water customers stuck paying for the expense.


“We had some questions about the legalities,” Randy Brown, chairman of the Southeast Florida Utility Council, said about the district’s new rules.