In January, legislation was introduced in Florida that would allow treated wastewater to be pumped into the state’s aquifers. The stated goal of the bill was to replenish the state’s aquifer system.
Environmentalists were concerned that allowing treated waste water to be pumped into the aquifer would pollute 90% of Floridian’s drinking water and more than 700 of its springs, damaging the environment and putting the public’s health at risk.
The bill’s supporters say that a growing population in Florida has increased the demand for water and put a strain on its aquifers. Sponsors of the bill say pumping reclaimed water back into the ground could help future supply issues.
In a March 1, 2018 Tampa Bay Times article: “Cynthia Barnett, the author of three books on water and environmental fellow in residence at the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service, said the bills are based on a faulty assumption concerning how much water Florida needs for its future growth.
The bills says that Florida will need 7.7 billion gallons of water per day by 2030, or 1.3 billion gallons more than the state was using in 2010. That Barnett said, would only be true if we live wastefully with water and irrigate as profligately as we have in the past, and all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. The most important things we can do going forward are to use less and pollute less – not plan for using more and more.”
The bill passed despite the concerns of environmental groups like the Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen, who warned during testimony before the Senate that if the bills pass it could harm the aquifer, “and once the aquifer is contaminated, it’s broken.”
Environmental groups and thousands of Floridians expressed concerns over potential health and environmental impacts. Over 3,000 signed petitions were submitted to the Governor asking him to veto the “Toilet to Tap” bill.
On April 6, 2018, the Governor vetoed the bill. “I do not believe that approving HB 1149 is worth risking Floridians’ confidence in our existing water quality regulatory system,” he wrote, adding that he still supported some of its other provisions, including the ongoing reservoir project and the proposed utilities program. “I am not convinced that this legislation will not muddle Florida’s protection of our aquifers.”