AUSTIN — A state agency that helps manage Florida’s water resources said Friday that the state is at risk of running out of water.
Rick Scott has repeatedly stressed the need for drought-tolerant agriculture, but he said the state needs to find more ways to get water to farmers.
The state has more than 1.2 million acres of irrigated farmland, more than double the number in 2008.
Scott said during a June 25 press conference that Florida has a drought emergency, and he urged state officials to develop solutions to get the state’s farmers and ranchers water and to find ways to save water.
Scott has ordered that all Florida farmers and farmers’ groups be required to use more water.
Scott’s water emergency order is similar to the one the U.S. Supreme Court put on hold this week in a case involving an attempt by a Florida farmers group to force a water rationing program on the state.
The drought emergency order, signed by Scott on Thursday, allows him to issue an emergency declaration for the state, but only in cases of severe drought and in a limited timeframe.
The governor said that, if the state runs out of groundwater, it will need to make new aquifers in order to meet growing demand.
“We have a finite amount of groundwater.
We have to find other ways to make those aquifermes water safe to use,” Scott said Friday.
Scott has previously said that water scarcity in the state has increased dramatically in recent years and that water shortages have increased by 40 percent in the past two years.
Scott said that in response to the drought emergency declaration, the state will use more than a half-billion gallons of water from a system of reservoirs and lakes to irrigate the state every day.
Scott announced that Florida would use the new aquifer to provide water to a new reservoir in the Pinellas County area of Tallahassee that was built to hold more than 500,000 acre-feet of water during the drought.
The state also plans to increase its use of the Pinellan Reservoir in Broward County to handle a more than 900,000-acre-foot reservoir, which has been used for nearly three decades.
Scott noted that the Pinella Lake Reservoir has a capacity of 1.9 million acre-foot and that the other water sources in the region have an capacity of between 2.5 million and 3.2 percent.
Scott added that Florida’s reservoirs are used in conjunction with the Pinello Lake Reservort in Tallahasa County to manage a potential shortfall in water supply during the rainy season, when demand increases and farmers and ranching companies need to conserve water.