The Drying of America: FL County Moratorium Echoes the National Wakeup Call of Development vs. There’s Not Enough Water

Kathy LaFollett
Water rights. You'd think we could make a deal that makes a difference.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

Pasco County’s City of Pure Water became the county’s most populated. Then the City Council placed a moratorium on new development and annexation applications. They’re pumping the breaks on breakneck development. Why? The math doesn’t add up for enough water to support all this human density. The City of Pure Water is at its limit for water usage. Lack of fresh water for impending population growth is not a new problem. They foretold this idea decades ago when science and politics started the big fight over the state of the United States’ 204 water basins. They kicked cans down the road whenever citizens wanted answers. Because political policy has little to do with public supporting policy making.

In 2019, Fortune, Harvard, and the AGU (our tax dollars at work for us, not politics), presented data projecting that America is running out of drinkable water. Granted globally, most other countries are, or have also run out of water. Cape Town, South Africa, Mexico City, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Australia, to name but a few. But all political expediency must remain swift. Not necessarily fresh water itself.

Some city, county, and state managements that cried Uncle for their water supplies, so far:

  • Oakley, Utah 2021, Development Moratorium.
  • The California Coastal Commission 2022 urged San Luis Obispo County to stop development. City managers are considering.
  • The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District 2022, New Connections moratorium. A development moratorium without the politics.
  • Zephyrhills, FL 2023, Development Moratorium.
  • Phoenix, Arizona 2023, Development Moratorium due to ground and surface water availability.

US Cities that are already working against hard math with Our Great Development vs There’s Not Enough Water:

  • El Paso, TX
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • Atlanta, GA

There’s one thread running through the conversations and moratoriums. Water rights. Florida, Alabama, and Georgia have been in and out of court over water for decades. The Colorado River Basin member States have been in water rights fist fights since the first steer set hoof to graze plain grasses. Look up Norman Blitz and Patrick McCarran. Their story is as clear as the water looked back then. Better yet, read Bernard DeVoto’s magnificent work on the West’s resources and land grabbers. Nestle came to Florida for the water. The names change, but the grift does not.

And while politicians make hay, and oligarchs make legacy money, the resource that was depleting is now disappearing to where citizens are being directly impacted. Thankfully, the marketing viewpoint has found a way around us. Calling water shortages a threat to Development (capital D, noun). It isn’t threatening us directly. Pay no attention to that shadow against the wall without a name. DeVoto had a name for that shadow. He named it land grabber, grifter, ilk. Land grabbing includes anything on and in the land. He wrote award-winning books and articles declaring these truths. He wrote them in the 40’s and 50’s. Ironic. DeVoto stopped much of the land grift he witnessed. Enough to save our Public Lands. The water rights are another matter. Because politics made it another matter. Those hydroelectric dams? They weren’t hydroelectric during the political debates. They were damns to move water to those that wanted the water for their cattle. Which became oil and gas when beef went bust. Politicians made the hydroelectric a sales pitch. But again, I suggest you read the elegant, pointed writing of Bernard DeVoto. He hid his powerful exposes under the comfy name, The Easy Chair, a column for Harper's Magazine.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think politicians are on our side at all. The newly signed debt limit bill included a bit of gristle and grift in 2023. One stuck between my teeth is the concession for a special DC politician to get his Green Mountain Pipeline back underway. A project that connects Appalachian Basin gas supplies to Mid-Atlantic markets. He’d made some assurances about that long ago. But the 4th district court reviewed the project for endangered species, national forest, wetland and stream crossing permits. Finding problems with that permitting. The project backers faced opposition from environmental groups. Those annoying clean water laws. They clog up the works.

Thankfully, politicians know how to make courts, permits, and clean water acts signed by Presidents irrelevant. Just like Norman Blitz and Patrick McCarran back in the day. Public interest be damned, there’s Development to develop!

The overall time frame for the United States to be in dire social straights is under 65 years. If you feel this is a long time, ask a 60-year-old. If you think dire social straights look like riots in the street, consider Flint, Michigan. No, the revolution will not be televised. It’ll be monetized click bait running ads for bottled water.

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Florida author, speaker, and wildlife/companion animal advocate writing about life in the Sunshine State from my cityscape, St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg, FL

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