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Winter 2012
d&G Lawyer News

  • Recent Reclaimed Water Law Changes
  • By: Nicolas Q. Porter

    In the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 639 (Ch. 2012-150, Laws of Fla.), which clarified the role of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the five water management districts in regulation of reclaimed water use.

    DEP defines reclaimed water as "water that has received at least secondary treatment and basic disinfection and is reused after flowing out of a domestic wastewater treatment facility." "Waters" or "waters of the state" are defined in Section 373.019(22), Florida Statutes as "any and all water on or beneath the surface of the ground or in the atmosphere, including natural or artificial watercourses, lakes, ponds, or diffused surface water and water percolating, standing, or flowing beneath the surface of the ground, as well as all coastal waters within the jurisdiction of the state." Reclaimed water, however, was not specifically excluded from the definition of "waters of the state" creating confusion as to whether the water management districts could regulate the use of reclaimed water through their consumptive use permitting authority under Chapter 373, Florida Statutes.

    HB 639 clarifies this ambiguity by revising the definition of "reclaimed water" in Section 373.019 to specifically provide that "reclaimed water is not subject to regulation pursuant to s. 373.175 or part II of this chapter until it has been discharged into waters as defined in s. 403.031(13)." Therefore, the revision makes it clear that the water management districts do not have the authority to directly regulate the use of reclaimed water by reuse utilities. Pursuant to Section 373.250, Florida Statutes, water management districts may still require water users to use reclaimed water in lieu of higher quality sources, when reclaimed water is available and it is feasible for reclaimed water to be used instead of another source.

    The statutory revisions of HB 639 provide reuse utilities an opportunity to address existing consumptive use permit conditions that require that certain quantities of reclaimed water be used, or that direct that reclaimed water be used in a certain manner as a condition for permit issuance. Since the passage of HB 639, the water management district have already begun to approve the modification of existing consumptive use permits to remove or modify conditions dealing with reclaimed water use.

    If de la Parte & Gilbert can be of assistance in addressing your permitting needs, please do not hesitate to contact Nick Porter at with your inquiries.

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