Volume 81, Number 4

October 2004

Evolving Strategies for Twenty-First Century Natural Resource Problems

William J. Wailand

East Central Florida sits atop the Floridan Aquifer, an underground water source covering 100,000 square miles and spanning Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (Berardo, pp. 64-65). As the population soars in this region, demand for water will likely increase dramatically, and average water consumption may reach 926 million gallons per day by the year 2020, a sixty percent increase from 1995 levels (Berardo, pp. 64-65). Increasing withdrawals have led to unsustainable levels of use and threaten environmental degradations—saltwater intrusion, reduced spring flows, drying lakes and wetlands—and political conflict (Berardo, p. 65). The principal governmental body in charge of water consumption has designated the area a Priority Water Resource Caution Area, but it is unable to unilaterally solve this impending problem for several reasons. First, the potential causes and impacts of unsustainable use extend beyond its jurisdiction. Second, the diverse array of stakeholders will be reluctant to accept a top-down, dictated solution concerning the sensitive issue of water resources. Third, scientists do not completely understand the potential impacts on the aquifer, and changing scientific understanding may alter potential solutions. How can this natural resource problem be addressed, when the solutions—and even the problems—are poorly understood, and no single administrative body is competent to develop and implement solutions?