Residents within the St. Johns River Water Management District used to pay a high price for abiding by the law.
Until recently, residents of its northeast Florida counties were expected to report free-flowing wells on their property and incur a $600 fee for plugging it. But now, St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Mike Register said he wants to lift the financial burden off the backs of residents.
The water management district is an environmental regulatory agency that covers 18 counties tasked with protecting Florida’s drinking water among other conservation goals.
“What we wanna do is free them up from having to make that economic decision and help us protect our water resources, stretch our water supply and conserve water by allowing them to report it without being afraid that they’re gonna have to incur some cost in order to fix the issue,” he said.
The free-flowing wells, known as artesian wells, were historically used for farming. Today, many still remain and are abandoned, unused and wasting droves of water daily. The wells, which are fed by fresh water aquifers, consistently spout water. According to the St. Johns River Water Management district, free-flowing wells can spill millions of gallons of water per day.
The water management director, Mike Register, said they decided to waive the fee in hopes of furthering efforts to conserve water.
“It can save a tremendous amount of water,” he said, “and within all the areas within the district, we’re always looking for ways that we can conserve water and stretch our water supply to the maximum extent possible without causing any environmental harm.”
Register said the district has had 10 wells reported since waiving the fee in early November — a jump compared to the average 30 to 50 wells reported for the entire year.
A hydrologist for the district, Gary Foster, said he is proud to be part of the program, and he hopes to see it develop with the waiving of the $600 fee.
“It’s a great feeling, and I really enjoy that this program is increasing, and it’s a great idea,” he said, “I really look forward to the next few years doing it.”