During this morning’s inaugural meeting of the Everglades Legislative Caucus, former Sen. Bob Graham spoke out against a bill that would privatize the reclaimed water used by utilities.
State Rep. Dana Young’s bill would redefine reclaimed waters and prohibit water management districts from requiring a permit for their use. Under the bill, utility companies would still have to obtain a Consumptive Use Permit from a local water management district, but, once they draw the water and use it, it would be theirs and no longer subject to additional permitting.
The bill has the backing of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, a coalition that has been known to oppose state environmental regulations. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also supports the bill, and has said that the measure would help expand his city’s reclaimed water system in order to ensure that Tampa residents have a reliable source of drinking water for years to come.
But environmental groups say the bill would make water a commodity, rather than a resource. According to Graham, bills like Young’s would not only be “the camel’s nose,” but “the camel’s neck and shoulder in the tent of ultimate privatization of water.”
Speaking to the Everglades caucus, Graham warned legislators against supporting bills that would adversely affect the Everglades.
The bill also declares that such “reclaimed” water is not “waters of the state,” as defined in state law, until it has been discharged into a waterway.
“I think that policy has served us well for over 150 years,” Graham said. “I think the Legislature should be resistant to any proposals no matter how benign they may appear that would change that.”
Young said her bill doesn’t allow the private ownership of water, saying there was “unfortunate” misinformation about the bill. She said the bill provides certainty for cities and counties for allowing the reuse of treated wastewater.
Saying that she and Graham “go way back” with her knowing Graham’s daughter, Young said, “I think he has every right to come out and speak on the bill.”
“I think it would be a good idea if we sat down and talked about it,” she said. “I think unfortunately he has been fed some information that is inaccurate.”