Critics say budget cuts, hand-picked leaders have hurt water management districts
In June 2011, Gov. Rick Scott ventured to the South Florida Water Management District’s office in West Palm Beach to sign legislation mandating tax cuts and more Tallahassee budget control for the state’s water management districts.
The ceremonial bill-signing took place at a district where the cuts would later lead to 135 layoffs.
More than four years later, Scott’s administration continues to hold what some environmentalists and former water management district officials consider unprecedented and unhealthy influence over the districts.
There are five water districts in Florida; two of them, the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts, create water policy that governs Alachua County.
All five water districts, created in the 1970s, operate under the auspices of the state's Department of Environmental Protection. The districts shape such policies as lawn watering rules, plans for countering water shortages during drought, and regulating who can pump water — and how much — from the underground aquifer that supplies most of Florida's water.