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Publication #FE593

Handbook of Florida Water Regulation: Florida Department of Environmental Protection1

Michael T. Olexa and Sean Crisafulli2


This handbook is designed to provide an accurate, current, and authoritative summary of the principal federal and state (Florida) laws that directly or indirectly relate to agriculture. This handbook provides a basic overview of the many rights and responsibilities that farmers and farmland owners have under both federal and state laws as well as the appropriate contact information to obtain more detailed information. However, the reader should be aware that because the laws, administrative rulings, and court decisions on which this handbook is based are subject to constant revision, portions of this publication could become outdated at any time. Several details of cited laws are also left out due to space limitations.

This handbook is distributed with the understanding that the authors are not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice, and the information contained herein should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. This handbook is not all inclusive in providing information to achieve compliance with the federal and state laws and regulations governing water protection. For these reasons, the use of these materials by any person constitutes an agreement to hold harmless the authors, the UF/IFAS Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law, the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the University of Florida for any liability claims, damages, or expenses that may be incurred by any person as a result of reference to or reliance on the information contained in this handbook.

FDEP Overview

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) was created by the Florida Environmental Reorganization Act of 1993. Its primary responsibility is to preserve the environmental integrity of Florida's physical environment, especially air and water. Although this includes a large number of duties, only those duties relevant to the scope of this handbook are discussed. These include the following:

  • The permitting of dredging and filling in waters of the state

  • Administering the Water Resources Act of 1972, Chapter 373, Florida Statutes

  • Review of water control districts

  • Regulation of air, water, and noise pollution

  • Solid and hazardous waste management

  • Public drinking water supplies

  • Controlling noxious aquatic weeds

  • Regulation of injection wells and wells related to oil exploration

  • The prevention or cleanup of pollutant spills or discharges into inland waters or lands of the state

  • Administration of such federal acts as the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act in Florida

To whom has FDEP delegated powers?

FDEP has specifically delegated to the Florida water management districts (FWMD) the power to administer and enforce the provisions of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes, also known as the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972. FDEP has also given authority to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which implements agricultural water pollution reduction practices and regulates certain open-burning activities through the Division of Forestry.

How is FDEP structured?

DEP is the state agency for environmental management and stewardship. The agency is divided into three primary areas: regulatory programs, land and recreation, and water policy and ecosystem restoration. FDEP is responsible for overseeing programs that regulate safe drinking water; groundwater and surface water quality; reclaiming lands that have been mined for phosphate and other materials; solid and hazardous waste management, including the cleanup of hazardous waste and pollutant spill sites; and environmental resource permitting for the protection of wetlands aquatic plants.

District offices of FDEP contain their own structure, which is usually similar to the one at the Tallahassee headquarters. Collectively, the districts are responsible for policy, planning, and rulemaking activities. Each district is headed by a Director of District Management. Responsibilities for permitting, compliance monitoring, and enforcement activities are split between headquarters and the district offices.

More information about FDEP can be found at


The authors are indebted to the personnel of both state and federal agencies who provided their time and advice in the preparation of this handbook. We wish to acknowledge Carol Fountain and Travis Prescott at the University of Florida for their assistance in editing this handbook.



This is EDIS document FE593, a publication of the Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL. Published December 2005, revised June 2011 and April 2015. Please visit the EDIS website at


Michael T. Olexa, professor, Food and Resource Economics Department, and director, UF/IFAS Center for Agricultural and NAtural Resource Law, University of Florida, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL, and member of The Florida Bar. Sean Crisafulli, student, Levin College of Law, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.