On November 2nd, the stakeholder advisory committee of the North Florida Regional Water Supply Project, a joint effort of the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Suwannee River Water Management District, met for the last time. On November 3rd, the Suwannee River Water Management District held a public workshop on the draft North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan which resulted from this effort. The public comment period on the draft plan, which encompasses part, or all of 14 counties in North Florida, extends until December 5, 2016.

The draft plan, in its essence, addresses the availability of fresh groundwater and nontraditional water sources projected against increasing water demand over a 20-year planning horizon. The draft plan seeks to identify potential techniques for water management on the demand side and the supply side. Concluding that a conservation-only strategy will not completely offset the predicted impact of water demand, both due to the availability of groundwater supplies and other environmental constraints, the draft plan identifies water supply side options, such as wetland hydration, water storage, aquifer recharge, and others to reduce pressure on finite groundwater resources over the planning horizon. The draft plan proposes to significantly expand existing Water Resource Caution Areas into portions of Hamilton, Suwannee, Gilchrist, and Alachua counties.

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The most common interaction between a landowner and a water management district occurs when a permit is sought. By statute, the plan may not be used in the review of consumptive/water use permits unless the plan or a portion of the plan is been adopted by rule, with a singular narrow exception. That being said, our experience is that water supply plans sometimes impact interactions with water management districts in ways that are unforeseeable (and, ultimately, expensive). The draft Florida Regional Water Supply Plan is available at http://northfloridawater.com/watersupplyplan/draft.html . Those in the 14 counties affected by this draft plan who rely on groundwater or propose to withdraw groundwater over the 20 year planning horizon would do well to monitor its progress.