Handbook of Florida Water Regulation: Florida Department of Health1

Michael T. Olexa, Tatiana Borisova, and Jarrett Davis 2


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decisions on which this handbook is based are subject to constant revision, portions of this publication could become outdated at any time.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.

Florida Department of Health (FDOH): Overview

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is largely responsible for implementing procedures to promote and protect public health and safety. Farmers must consider the FDOH when they are involved in activities that might impact the quality of public drinking supplies. The FDOH conducts investigations on wells or specific areas when they are potentially at risk due to a chemical release and provides an alternate drinking source when the water exceeds the maximum contaminant level. For a list of the maximum contaminant levels for individual chemicals, visit: http://www.floridahealth.gov/Environmental-Health/drinking-water/_documents/hal-list.pdf.

Of particular concern to the agency is sewage pollution of Florida's groundwater. The FDOH issues permits for construction or installation of septic tanks and other onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems. These permits include requirements for the following:

  • Distance and set-backs from wells and surface waters

  • Soil conditions

  • Estimated seasonal high water table

  • Daily flow thresholds (see FE614, Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal)

Written permits issued through the local county health department branch of the FDOH are required prior to constructing any onsite sewage treatment and disposal system. Unlawful deposition of filth or polluting substances can be punished by the FDOH.

In addition, landowners should report cattle-dipping vats that have not been documented by the state of Florida to the FDOH. Historically, cattle dipping vats were filled with arsenic solutions to kill ticks, which could contaminate ground water in the vicinity.

More information about the FDOH can be found at the FDOH website at http://www.doh.state.fl.us/.


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 acknowledge Carol Fountain and Susan Gildersleeve at the University of Florida for their assistance in editing this handbook. We also acknowledge funding received for updating this publication from the 2016 Wells Fargo Extension Professional Award and Program Enhancement Grant (Principal Investigator is Tatiana Borisova).


1. This document is FE597, one of a series of the Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1998. Revised June 2017. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
2. Michael T. Olexa, professor, Food and Resource Economics Department, and director, UF/IFAS Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law; Tatiana Borisova, associate professor, Food and Resource Economics Department; and Jarrett Davis, student Levin College of Law; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FE597

Date: 2018-02-27

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  • Michael Olexa