Water 101: Decision Making & the “Alphabet Soup” of Florida’s Waters

Water-Related Decisionmaking in Florida

Who makes the decisions that affect Florida’s waters? Here are some facts that are important to know.

The Governor of Florida appoints the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the agency charged with enforcing water pollution laws. The head of FDEP must be approved by the Florida Cabinet.

The Governor of Florida appoints the board members of the water management districts, who make decisions about who gets water use permits.

State Legislators (Senators and Representatives in Tallahassee) pass bills pertaining to water laws that apply to everyone in Florida. The Governor chooses whether to sign the bills into law or veto them.

County Commissioners make county-wide zoning and land use decisions, some of which can be pre-empted by various state laws.


Lots of acronyms get thrown around during water discussions and it’s important to know what they stand for. Here’s a list of some of the more common ones.

BMP:  Best Management Practices, used by agriculture in attempts to mitigate pollution. Voluntary, not enforced.

BMAP:  Basin Management Action Plan, a plan developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to control pollution in a springshed or river basin

CAFO:  Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

CEJ:  Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University Law School in Orlando

CELDF:  Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

CUP:  Consumptive Use Permit to pump water, now called Water Use Permit

DEP: Department of Environmental Protection (see FDEP)

EPA:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

FDEP:  Florida Department of Environmental Protection, charged with controlling water pollution in the state

FGS:  Florida Geological Survey

FPS:  Florida Park Service, a unit of FDEP

FSC:  Florida Springs Council

FSI:  Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

MFL:  Minimum Flows & Levels, set by the appropriate water management districts as the flow level below which significant harm would occur to lakes, rivers and springs

TMDL:  Total Maximum Daily Load, a regulatory term in the U.S. Clean Water Act that indicates the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards (Florida has thousands of impaired water bodies that are not meeting these standards)

USGS: U.S. Geological Survey

WMD:  Water Management District, charged with controlling water supply in one of five different areas: Northwest Florida, Southwest Florida, South Florida, Suwannee River, and St. Johns River. The 2016 water bill allows for transfers of water between districts.

WUP:  Water Use Permit