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Wildlife 2060 - Water Quality and Quantity

Water quality and quantity: Enough water to go around?

Bird in Lake

A generous 55 inches of rain soaks the Florida landscape each year, recharging our aquifers (the source of 92 percent of our human drinking water) and sustaining the flow of our rivers and springs. Yet Florida's human population is using nearly 7 billion gallons of fresh water a day for drinking, watering lawns, industry and agriculture. Already, parts of South and East Florida drink more groundwater than the rain replenishes. Saltwater intrusion, dried-up lakes and an increased number of sinkholes are a few of the symptoms of over-tapped aquifers.

What has this meant for wildlife? Florida has lost more wetland acres than any other state. Millions of acres were filled in or paved over by the late 1980s. If our population doubles by 2060, many more wetlands will be isolated or degraded by surrounding development. Thousands of white ibis, wood storks and other wading birds will disappear as they lose nesting and feeding habitat.

As competition among users heightens, it will become more important to protect water for people, agriculture and other businesses - and for fish and wildlife. We must continue to establish minimum flows and levels for lakes, rivers and springs, below which significant harm to the water resources or ecology of these areas would result. This will become ever more essential as pressure mounts to withdraw more and more surface water for industry and urbanization.

Wide public support for Everglades restoration and many other smaller scale projects makes it clear that most Floridians want to conserve water for the environment as well as for people. Many citizen initiatives are achieving powerful results for fish and wildlife.