Wednesday, June 12, 2024

UF Water Institute FACETS Project Reports About Water-Related Communications

Gilchrist Blue Spring on the Santa Fe River in Florida

Back when I was working for the Ichetucknee Alliance, I was invited to participate as a representative of that group in the University of Florida Water Institute's FACETS project; FACETS is the acronym for "Floridan Aquifer Collaborative Engagement for Sustainability."

The project brought agriculturalists (i.e., "growers"), environmentalists, scientists, and public policy people together to examine how changes in crops, agricultural practices, and land use could impact water quality and quantity in the Santa Fe River basin in Florida and the Flint River basin in Georgia.

Not surprisingly, one of the conclusions was that there is no "magic bullet" to restore water quality and quantity in both of those areas; however, there were some interesting findings that might be used to nudge positive changes in very localized areas within those basins.

The part of the research that I was most interested in, however, delved into how the various participants in the project communicated with each other. Some of those findings have now been published and I'll list the links to those reports below. I may come back and add my summaries of the reports a bit later in subsequent blog posts but for right now, I just want to get the word out about these reports in case anyone is interested in reading them--and if you are engaged in communicating about our water issues, you really might want to take some time to check these out!

Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region: Part 1—What Do People Know About Water Science? by Sadie Hundemer and Shenara Ramadan

Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region: Part 2—Do People Believe Water Science? by Sadie Hundemer and Shenara Ramadan

Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region: Part 3—How the Right Messages and Messengers Can Increase Bipartisan Support for Water Policy by Sadie Hundemer and Shenara Ramadan

Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region: Part 4—The Media’s Role in Water Perceptions by Sadie Hundemer and Shenara Ramadan

Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region: Part 5—Increasing Collaboration Between Producers and Environmentalists on Water Challenges by Sadie Hundemer and Shenara Ramadan

Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region: Part 6—Stakeholders’ Mental Models of Regional Water Challenges by Sadie Hundemer and Shenara Ramadan

What Do Florida and Georgia Residents Know About Water? by Sadie Hundemer

All of the above reports and links are publicly available on the FACETS website here.

The report on the final FACETS meeting is here.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Proposed Florida Right to Clean & Healthy Waters State Constitutional Amendment: Let’s Put the Heart in the Springs Heartland!

The Santa Fe River, looking east from Rum Island

This amendment creates an enforceable, fundamental right to clean and healthy waters, authorizing a person to sue for equitable relief when a State executive agency, by action or inaction, allows harm or threat of harm to Florida waters… See: 

A quote on Facebook recently caught my eye: “One reason people insist that you use the proper channels to change things is because they have control of the proper channels and they’re confident it won’t work.”

Thinking back on the 10 years I spent working for the Ichetucknee Alliance, during which I also did some work for the Silver Springs Alliance and helped at the founding of the Florida Springs Council, I can vouch for the truth of that quote.

All of our springs defender groups have been working through proper channels and “fighting the system” (the water management districts, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Legislature) to make the kinds of changes—increased flows and decreased pollution—that we need to save our beloved freshwater springs. But as the Florida Springs Council documents so well in just one example for the Santa Fe River basin, our efforts so far have failed: 

Part of the reason we have failed is because Floridians have bought into a couple of myths about our water. The first myth is that we have an infinite supply of freshwater. The second myth is that “out of sight, out of mind” is an effective pollution prevention strategy. Neither of those myths is true.

Another reason we have failed is because the decision makers in our state agencies—many of whom have been and are appointed by Florida’s governors—find it politically advantageous to ignore enforcement of Florida’s water laws.

The most important reason we have failed, however, is because our current laws actually permit individuals and businesses to damage natural systems in order to profit. Taxpayers are then left to pay for restoration projects. We’re privatizing profits and socializing losses.

I’m remembering another quote, this one from Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

To save our springs, we need to change the ways we are living with water. We need a new water ethic. We need to change the water paradigms that have guided us up until now, because those paradigms are not working. We need to change our thinking from “fighting” to “building a new model.” We need to change our strategies to aim for getting what we want instead of just asking for what we think we can get. Instead of fighting the existing system, we need to begin creating something new that’s based on love for our springs and rivers. We need to be working toward what anthropologists call “culture change.”

Changing our culture and our thinking is linked to changing our laws, and the proposed Florida Right to Clean & Healthy Waters (RTCW) state constitutional amendment does that in a profound way—by guaranteeing Floridians a fundamental RIGHT to clean water, a right that’s on a par with the freedoms we are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. The amendment offers us the highest possible protections for our waters and enables us to hold our state agencies accountable for their failures to protect our waterways. This is the kind of Green Amendment that is gaining traction throughout the United States; see: 

In an effort to put a similar amendment on the Florida ballot in 2024, the RTCW team received about 100,000 signed petitions; however, that number was short of the approximately 900,000 petitions needed.

Now, the RTCW team has regrouped, strengthened the petition language, and re-strategized the campaign for the 2026 election cycle. If you signed a petition during the 2024 effort, you will need to sign again for 2026. Here’s the link from which you can print the new petition: 

Candidates for public office may also register on the RTCW home page ( for a June 21, 2024, training event that will explain more about what the proposed amendment will and will not do. It’s important to understand that the proposed amendment does not allow lawsuits to individuals or businesses, only to state agencies for their failures to enforce our laws.

Remember that when given the chance to vote yes or no on saving our environment, Floridians have historically voted “yes” by large margins. The RTCW amendment will be a winner if we can gather enough petitions to get the amendment on the ballot.

You can show your love for our springs and rivers—help us put the heart in the Springs Heartland—by volunteering to help as an individual, a business or another kind of organization. Click on the “Support” tab here to see the pull-down list of ways to help: 

Petition campaigns are expensive. You can also help by donating to this effort: 

In particular, if you can help to collect petitions, please call David Moritz at ‭(352) 575-6297‬ or go here to sign up:‬‬‬‬ 

Independent campaign consultants have told us that our petition-gathering effort has a strong foundation and can be successful. We simply need more people to get involved. You could even create your own team to help out and have fun together at the same time!

As we approach the July 4th holiday, please remember that there’s no economic stability and no life, liberty or pursuit of happiness without clean water—and the RTCW effort aims to ensure clean water not only for us, for our rivers and springs, but also for our children and grandchildren.