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Water wars loom as Central Florida grows

ORLANDO, Fla. — In a 2020 report from three of the state’s water districts, the word “insufficient” appears just once, but it comes with a warning.

“Increased withdrawal from groundwater sources will be insufficient to meet the entire 2040 projected water demands,” was one of the Central Florida Water Initiative’s conclusions .

The 139-page report focuses on the stress on the region’s water supply compared to growth in the area, as Florida continues to welcome more residents to the state.

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While residential use is just a small part of overall use, the growth nonetheless adds strain on a resource that is crucial.

“We treat it like it’s infinite, and it’s not, it’s a fixed amount that we get each year,” says Dr. Bob Knight of the Florida Springs Institute.

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Knight and others have been warning for years about decreased flow at Florida’s springs due to over-pumping. But now, the entire sunbelt growing states are growing increasingly litigious about who has the right to the water that flows above the ground, and under our feet.

“The Supreme Court has begun to realize, very clearly that groundwater is an interstate resource,” says Florida A&M University’s Law Professor Robert Abrams.

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In the last several years, the Supreme Court has been called in to settle disputes between Mississippi and Tennessee, Colorado and New Mexico, and closer to home Florida and Georgia; a case Florida lost. These lawsuits, coupled with population growth and climate change, set the stage for states to fight over water.

“In the long run we have to be better stewards of the resource,” says Abrams. “The long-range models show the southeast getting dryer and weather that is less stationary.”

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