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2012 marks the 40th anniversary of both the Florida Water Resources Act and the federal Clean Water Act. In honor of this occasion, the 18th annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Florida Levin College of Law will focus on the evolution of water law and policy over the past four decades.
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The Florida Water Resources Act was born out of a sense of urgency that focused Florida’s policymakers on the need to modernize the rapidly developing state’s environmental, planning and water law. Dean Frank Maloney from the UF College of Law was tasked with drafting the model water code, which became law in 1972. Weighing in at a slim 15,500 words, the Florida Water Resources Act represented the best thinking on water resource administration at the time, blending eastern and western water law into something known as the “reasonable-beneficial use” standard, dividing the state into watershed-based administrative units with regulatory power and a purse, and accounting for environmental flows (Minimum Flows and Levels & Reservations of Use). After 40 years and now a bulky 155,000 words, the Act is still viewed with envy by other states and even foreign governments. Yet many believe Florida’s water resources are in a continuing crisis, as water managers seek to convert the deceptively simple mandates of the Act into something that satisfies the diverse constituencies—and resources—that rely on water.
The atmosphere prompting the passage of Florida’s water act reflected the broader demand of citizens throughout the country that the government act to address the growing problem of water pollution. In enacting the federal Clean Water Act in 1972, Congress intended to overcome the shortfalls of prior pollution control efforts. The CWA includes a sweeping commitment to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” by eliminating the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters and ensuring water quality to support the needs of both humans and wildlife.1 Despite large strides in reducing water pollution since its passage, the CWA remains the subject of debate among environmental advocates and supporters of states’ rights, among others.
This year’s conference will include keynote speakers and panels on a variety of topics related to water law and policy. Topics will focus on the current state of affairs with respect to water regulation and what the future holds for our state’s—and our country’s—water resources.
1 Clean Water Act § 101, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 (2006).
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