Water management is a fundamental need for the development of civilizations. Always has been. If you have any question about this, ask yourself what differentiates the developed world from the undeveloped. Water supply, sewage management and flood control rank 1-3 among the differences. Safe drinking water and good sanitation go back beyond the Romans, and is a necessity to insure that the populace, and those performing work are productive as opposed to sick all the time. At present there are agencies that operate to manage water supplies and drainage, and a few that do both. Mostly these are regional agencies, which belies the need for local decision making to respond to local conditions.
An example – in 2007/2008 the State of Florida was in the midst of “sever drought.” The water management agencies spent considerable time and political capital working on water conservation strategies, limiting utility withdrawals, cutting permit allocations and demanding conversions to alternative supplies in the future. The southern half of the state was hard hit. Utility customers cut their demands significantly. Unfortunately the customers’ reward was surcharges to make up lost revenues to overcome large operating shortfalls and potential defaults on borrowing documents. The short-term implementation was designed regionally, but had significant local consequences that were not considered.
But more interesting was the actual “drought” conditions. It seems that the hard hit areas were in the central part of the state, not the southeastern coast. The central part of the state, including the Everglades had received about 60% of the average rainfall, but along the coast, the two year shortage averaged less than 10%, and most residents realized that their rainfall accumulations were not as severe as inland. Since most of the southeast coast’s water supplies were local, not based on the central part, the local question rose, “why were the water conservation measures required of these utilities and residents? and Why was this not a locally driven issue?”
The case highlights the fact that while most water resource planning efforts are regional, the impacts occur locally, and often local impacts are not fully considered. Credibility of the utilities is critical for emergencies or difficult situations. During this condition, a survey of coastal utility customers found that the customers were better informed on rainfall totals than the regional information provided, which undercut the credibility the local utilities were trying to build with their customers, which impacts future needs for cooperation at the local level. Something about crying wolf…