The Benefits of Dispersed Water Management

FRESP's 8 water management projects provided proof of concept of dispersed water management on ranchlands, a new option for providing water related environmental services. Defined as shallow water retention managed by private landowners, dispersed water management offers a new and complementary approach to regional public works projects (e.g. Storm water Treatment Areas (STAs), deep storage reservoirs, Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells) which are typically publically owned and managed water treatment or storage projects.

Water retention can be increased relying on common ranch practices.
© Patrick Lynch / SFWMD
Water retention can be increased relying on common ranch practices.

The benefits of a PES program for on-ranch dispersed water management include:

  • Modifying the phase and timing of water delivered to Lake Okeechobee, which creates a more natural fluctuation in the lake level and reduces the need to release harmful discharges to Florida's St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries;
  • Reducing the nutrient load reaching Lake Okeechobee, the estuaries, and the Everglades National Park; and
  • Increasing ranchers’ profitability, making it easier for ranchers to maintain their ranches instead of converting them to intensive agriculture or other uses that require greater application of water and chemicals.
Wetland.
© Patrick Bohlen

The PES approach also has various benefits for the individuals and municipalities involved, including:

  • Maintaining land in private hands so that it is not taken out of production to benefit the local economy and tax rolls;
  • Implementing on-the-ground projects quickly—within one to two years—and flexibly, offering the option to provide either water retention or hydrological restoration services depending on the needs of the lake; and
  • Operating on ten-year fixed-term contracts that allow the buyer and seller to re-evaluate benefits and costs in order to decide whether to extend the contract.

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