Our state has a population today of nearly twenty million people and the high population is already putting significant pressure on supply. A number of residential rural wells have failed and it's particularly noticed in periods of drought which have been significant in recent years. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Based upon planning documentation for counties and cities in the state and the determination of areas already zoned and approved for population growth, Florida has a build out level five times its current population, or approximately 100 million. So if water is becoming short today, how will Florida be able to handle such a need in the years to come? The answer is clearly that she can't.
While the politicians and the developers work together to put more and more into less and less, they conveniently leave out the truth about the bleak future of water. After all, what do politicians generally do. They approve things without thinking them through and then, when the crisis comes, they demand huge tax increases or put in place stringent usage controls when it's too late. Lastly, they retire and have a fancy government building named after them.
And of course there are many other issues than water. Infrastructure issues, such as police, fire, sewer, schools, roads and transportation all require few outlays of dollars and the development project never covers those things. It is estimated by TischlerBise, formerly Tischler and Associates of Maryland, that for every one dollar of revenue brought in from development the cost is between #1.39 and $2.45, a losing proposition all the way around. So the good old taxpayer is once again asked to foot the bill for something that often he never asked for, in fact, often he opposed.
Additionally, the growth projection for Florida cited early was based as of 2010 and it does not include other projects being considered and, unless wiser heads prevail, likely to be approved. Here in my home county of Alachua we are dealing right now with a proposal to add over 10,500 new homes to a rural area that is a watershed for our aquifer. In this same area the landowner, Plum Creek Timber, is also asking for approval for up 15 million square feet of retail, industrial and office space. These requests are offered as amendments to the land use plan in effect; the owning company wants an exception to the land use provisions in effect when they bought the land. These provisions are also enforced upon all residents, so any change would be specifically for the large landholder, Plum Creek.
The land in question is remote with limited infrastructure and was extremely cheap when they bought it. Being a timber company, they have used it as a tree farm until now when they want to rezone it to increase its marketable value, entitlement, and sell it to the highest bidder. Despite their claims of creating jobs and developing a wonderful mixed use community, they are neither a builder, developer or job creator. In fact, they are a real estate investment trust.
I site this particular case not just because it is local and impacts me, but it is being watched very closely by developers throughout the state, eager to get their hands on the last bit of "Real Florida" and turn it into another Miami, Orlando or Jacksonville. One of the great attractions that bring tourists to Florida aside from the beach are the beautiful clear springs and massive new developments and industrial sites in these fragile interior areas will deplete the water to the point where it will be reduced to a trickle. It's like adding insult to injury and at some point Mother Nature is going to put her foot down and say "that's it, you're done".
And just yesterday it was reported that Osceola County (in the burgeoning Orlando area) is toying with the idea of another huge city, the size yet to be determined. Somehow the politicians think that more and more won't lead to less and less, but in reality it always does. More people, more crowding, more taxes, more pollution, more traffic and less water, a lower quality of life, less disposable income, higher crime, and all the other adverse things that come with urban sprawl.
So in this gubernatorial election year, I would ask the following question of both Governor Scott and his opponent, former Governor Crist. Whatcha' gonna' do when the well runs dry? For as sure as the sun comes up and the rooster crows, we're going to be facing a crisis of life threatening proportions much sooner than any of you want to admit. And the lure of economic development without fully taking into account its cost is foolhardy at best. You can have all the skyscrapers, resorts, golf courses, and six lane highways you want, but when the water is gone it will become a ghost town. When that happens each politician who knowingly collaborated with landowners, developers and others pushing for the last ounce of water under our land will each be complicit in our demise.
And I would also ask the same questions of the City Council members, the County Commissioners and other governing bodies who support the Governor's plans with their zoning actions. How long will you keep approving projects in the name of economic progress which ultimately become a pipe dream? For you are also accountable for your actions and their adverse impacts on local residents, especially the never ending tax spiral.
This isn't limited to Florida, folks, it's happening all over the country. In the name of property rights the unscrupulous are destroying our land and resources at an alarming rate. They "do their thing", take the money and run and the folks unfortunate enough to live in the area under siege are the ones who get hurt.
Property rights were never intended to be used against the rights of our neighbors, but when someone causes others to be deprived of water or the environment that they had every reason to expect to remain in accordance with known ordinances, the line has been obliterated. And it is up to those who we have elected to honor their commitments to all the citizens, not just those with deep pockets and special connections.
I only hope that all American will wake up before it is too late, for once the land it gone, it's gone for good. And somehow I think that when God looks down at the earth below, I don't think he had in mind endless strip centers and lush golf courses with water fountains where others have trouble even getting their tap to function. God bless America.