people depend on ground water. In the early 1980s, rapid growth and increasing water problems made it clear that the state had to take control of its water to achieve full beneficial use of the resource.
The Florida Water Resources Management Act of 1972 provided for the management of any and all water (surface and ground) and related land uses in five water management districts (WMDs) established along watershed lines. The WMDs, which are run by politically appointed boards, have the power to tax, make contracts, construct works, purchase land, establish basin boards, and regulate well construction. They also have the authority to survey water resources, establish minimum levels and flows for surface water courses and ground water in an aquifer, declare a water shortage emergency, promulgate rules for management and storage of water, and develop alternative water supply systems. They issue permits for consumptive use of water. To receive a permit, an applicant must show that the consumptive use is a reasonable and beneficial use, will not interfere with any existing legal right, and is consistent with the public interest. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administers the act at the state level. It develops a state water plan and supervises the WMDs and ensures their activities are consistent with state water policy (Dziuk and Theriaque, 1996).
The Florida water management districts provide instructive lessons about the utility of such watershed approaches and arrangements. Two generalizations emerge from their experiences. First, the WMDs hold their power fairly exclusively, so they rarely overlap with other agencies, and this reduces the potential for "turf battles." Making the power transfer to establish such authority is a major political task, and one that has rarely occurred in other states. If the powers are not transferred, however, watershed organizations risk repeating the unsuccessful story of the river commissions.
Second, the change in boundaries does not necessarily eliminate controversy or political problems. The Florida WMDs still face many of the same financial and political pressures.
Another example of watershed organization is the Blue Earth River Basin Initiative (BERBI) of Minnesota. Unlike the Florida example, BERBI is not part of a statewide overlay of watershed management organizations with dedicated powers and authorities. The Blue Earth River Watershed is 3,560 sq. mi. located in South Central Minnesota and North Central Iowa (Figure 6.1). It includes the LeSeur River, the Blue Earth River, and Watonwan River within its boundaries. The area is dominated by prime farmland in corn/soybean rotation and the main livestock enterprise is swine. The landscape is gently rolling and has an extensive drainage network. The major water quality issues include sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria, as well as water for the cities of Mankato and Fairmont.
In 1993, BERBI formed as a joint powers organization of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) in Blue Earth, Faribault, Martin, Waseca, and Watonwan counties under a Memorandum of Understanding from all five coun-