Conserve Florida was established to provide information and tools to improve water conservation through the development of utility-specific, goal-based water conservation programs. Through this effort, a water conservation Clearinghouse was established with first year funding from the South Florida, St. Johns River, and Southwest Florida Water Management Districts. A web-based conservation planning and reporting software application known as the “Guide” was also developed. The Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences at the University of Florida was selected to promote improved water conservation by hosting the Clearinghouse and associated online resources, such as the Guide.
In February 2004, stakeholders signed the “Joint Statement of Commitment for the Development and Implementation of a Statewide Comprehensive Water conservation Program for Public Water Supply.” Signatories to this important agreement were the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Northwest Florida Water Management District, the Suwannee River Water Management District, the Florida Public Service Commission, the Utility Council of the American Water Works Association (Florida Section), the Utility Council of the Florida Water Environment Association, and the Florida Rural Water Association. That collaborative effort was the basis for the 2004 enactment of Section 373.227, F.S. The law states that the overall water conservation goal of the State is “to prevent and reduce wasteful, uneconomical, impractical, or unreasonable use of water resources.” To achieve these conservation objectives, the legislation emphasized “goal-based, accountable, tailored, and measurable water conservation programs for public water supply.” The legislation directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in cooperation with the water management districts and the other stakeholders, to develop a statewide water conservation program for public water supply utilities.
Continuing the work already underway, FDEP and the other stakeholders developed common definitions and performance measures for evaluating water conservation programs and practices. The definitions and measures have been incorporated into a water conservation planning and reporting Guide. The Guide is an interactive web-based application (software and database) to aid utilities in developing utility-specific conservation goals, selecting best management practices to meet those goals, measuring and reporting results, and adjusting their conservation programs as needed to better meet conservation goals.
In March 2006, Conserve Florida, as the statewide water conservation program is known, selected the University of Florida to house, manage, and expand the operation and functions of the water conservation Clearinghouse. This centralized information repository is now equipped with tools to facilitate stakeholders’ efforts to achieve water conservation goals.