The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is working to enhance its effectiveness, collaboration and transparency to promote and accelerate environmental protection and restoration under the “Achieve More Now” partnership program. One way we can achieve cleaner water, faster, is to reach out to different groups that affect and care about our state’s rivers, lakes, springs and estuaries. Our water resources are a vital part of why we live and work in Florida. We not only need to protect these resources but also clean up and restore those that are impacted, through a coordinated effort amongst state and local agencies and the people who work, live and recreate in these areas.
DEP understands that supporting a local coordinated approach by partnering with community stakeholders to protect our water resources is incredibly important to Florida’s farmers. We are reaching out to local agricultural communities to identify areas where we can collaborate to achieve common goals. Stakeholder participation is a fundamental component in making natural resource management decisions. It leads to better outcomes and decision making for the continued improvement of our water resources without harming drivers of the economy, such as Florida’s strong agriculture industry.
One of DEP’s responsibilities is to identify waterbodies that do not meet water quality standards. Here in Florida, we have many water bodies that fall into this category; however, there are a variety of ways we can address these issues. We are working statewide to encourage local stakeholders (in both urban and agricultural dominated areas) to participate in programs at the earliest possible time to help reverse poor water quality conditions.
Locally developed pathways to water quality improvements, referred to as alternative restoration programs, provide the best opportunity for stakeholders to plan for efficient, proactive, and effective management of water quality activities, having more control over the recovery of the impaired waterbody. The department’s role in these stakeholder-led programs is one of guidance, facilitation, support, and feedback.
Waterbodies included in alternative restoration programs are considered a priority. Increased funding support may be available to help do projects and activities that reduce nutrients in waterbodies with these programs. In agriculture-dominated areas, this means working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, water management districts, Florida Farm Bureau and local producers to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) on properties where they are practical.
We are interested in hearing from landowners about water quality issues in their areas and how we might be able to assist them to implement pollutant-reducing activities. Our goal is to work together in a coordinated effort to create a sustainable supply of clean water for Florida’s environment, growing population and agriculture industry.