H. Paul Senft Jr., Governing Board Chair
This edition of WaterMatters Magazine celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Created in 1961 through legislative action to serve as the local sponsor for a series of federal flood control projects, the District’s responsibilities have grown dramatically over time.
Recognizing that our water resources — our coasts, rivers, springs, lakes and wetlands — define the quality of life in Florida, the state Legislature in the 1970s created Florida’s water law and established the modern-day water management districts to ensure Florida’s water was protected, preserved and used in a sustainable manner. In doing so, the District’s areas of responsibility expanded from flood protection to include water supply, water quality and natural systems.
Starting from scratch, the District created a water use permitting program to ensure a fair allocation of water resources while also protecting existing users and the natural systems. The early stormwater permitting program evolved into the current environmental resource permitting program, reducing the risk that new development will pollute water bodies or cause flooding to neighbors. We forged new scientific trails in the understanding of water resources and watersheds so that our decisions are based on the best available information.
Partnering with local, state and federal governments and private entities, the District has helped to identify and develop sustainable water supplies, reduce the risks of flooding and pollution, and improve the identification of flood-prone areas, while also protecting, preserving and restoring environmentally damaged water resources. Thanks to extremely talented and dedicated staff and Board members, we have accomplished much in the last half century.
A milestone like a 50-year anniversary is not only a time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished, but it also offers an opportunity to identify where we are going and what is yet to be done. Times change and each decade brings new challenges. Sometimes these challenges are driven by weather patterns such as droughts or hurricanes, and sometimes they are keyed by economic booms or busts.
With the economy currently mired in a slump, the District has seen its available financial resources significantly reduced. Despite the reduction in available funding, the District must and will meet its mission to ensure water supplies for current and future users while also protecting the water resources.
Working closely with District staff and new Executive Director Blake Guillory, we will continue to look for ways to streamline operations, using technology to become more efficient while maintaining the high level of service and collaboration for which this District is known. To effectively manage our water resources, we must efficiently plan for the future while retaining the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. We will continue to work with our partners and seek stakeholder input to our important resource management decisions.
I’m confident that we have talent, commitment and resources to meet the challenges of the next 50 years.