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Pastoral

One of the most difficult hurdles that the state of Florida faces in the future as water resources are depleted is satisfying the various constituencies within the state. Although agricultural activities are the second leading source of economic activity in the state, they account for over 60% of the state’s annual surface-water usage. Agricultural activities also have the ability to pollute water sources with pesticides and fertilizer runoff, as well as fecal material from cattle. During the freeze of 2010, agricultural interests pumped out up to 37 million gallons of water a day from the aquifer to protect plants from the cold. The drastic lowering of the water table in some places by over 20 feet caused hundreds of sinkholes to open up across the area. The ensuing battle between homeowners and insurance companies, who want to raise premiums because of sinkholes, continues to this day. Agriculture may use most of the surface water in the state, but urban development and storm water run-off are the most dangerous encroachments on the water supply. Florida law requires companies to build storm water control ponds when land is cleared. However, water collected from runoff is highly polluted with pesticides, petroleum products and other harmful chemicals. Retention ponds also divert water away from historic watersheds, damaging the surrounding ecosystem, where the water has little chance of returning into the hydrological system of the aquifer. As the population of Florida grows so too does its appetite for drinking water. As the large metropolitan areas of the state scramble for reserves of water further away from their cities, even isolated wetlands and river systems feel the pinch of Florida’s increasing thirst.