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Water Quality Report: JUNE 2022

“We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us”

This quote, a slight variation on Oliver Hazard Perry’s “We have met the enemy and he is ours,” from September 10, 1813, was seen first on a Walt Kelly Pogo poster designed for Earth Day #1, April 22, 1970, and remains bitterly relevant to this day.

Why? Because it is often our very system of statutes and regulations that must be overcome

every step of the way in achieving the most basic tenets of the Clean Water Act. Victories in

the war for clean water are small and few.

But it is a war that must be fought.

The core mission of Waterkeepers everywhere is to work for and attain “fishable, swimmable

and drinkable waters.” Should be simple, right? Just put a cork in the pipe and mission


Not so fast.

We are up against corrupt institutions, like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (its acronym DEP commonly referred to as Don’t Expect Protection), elected officials who despise environmental protection as an article of faith, polluters with bottomless pockets and the best PR money can buy, and businesses that put profit ahead of people.

Each of these obstructions will be the subject of many future posts, but for now, let’s look at

how the regulatory framework of clean water is set up, and why it is doomed from the gitgo.

In Florida, there are over 350 water bodies designated Outstanding Florida Waters (OFWs).

Many OFWs are also verified as impaired for one or more pollutants. Seems wrong, doesn’t it?

It is wrong. In order to manage water quality, there must first be a BMAP—Basin Management Action Plan. It takes years to develop a BMAP, which may only take in a few miles of a river, or a single lake, and the attendant watersheds. Then, with the BMAP in place, a TMDL (total maximum daily load) standard may be adopted. The TMDL is supposed to guide the establishment of specific reductions in the amount of the impairment pollutant{s} in such a way that in time, the water body will no longer be impaired. It can take years to get a TMDL in place.

There are few—if any—success stories in this world of BMAPs and TMDLs. Many water bodies are, unsurprisingly, getting worse, not better. Following the establishment of a BMAP, there will be years of evaluation and assessment to determine whether the TMDL is making a

difference, and if it’s in the right direction.

The system is supposed to reassure us that something is being done about Florida’s water crisis.

All too often, much too little is being accomplished, with the predictable result that Florida’s

water quality is steadily declining.

Development is moving forward without limits, and thousands of new homes and businesses

come on line every day, all expecting a limitless supply of clean potable water. This water

supply often comes at the expense of the natural systems that have adapted over millennia to Florida’s shrinking native ecosystems.

I will be back with more on our deeply flawed regulatory system, and with ways in which people working together can overcome corruption and regulatory inertia.

Feel free to submit constructive comments.

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