When we think about farming, we tend to think of food, and have an image of a kindly farmer’s face tending to crops of fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, many of us do not fully consider the burden that farmers have to bear to be able to provide that fresh produce to us—such as the need to maintain a safe working environment, and to not use too many chemicals, water, or other inputs. Farmers wear many hats and have many challenges that they face daily. One of the main hurdles that farmers must face is to ensure they meet changing environmental regulations, especially around water use.
Although rainfall is helpful in farming, it is not always predictable, and as such, a steady of source water is required, typically coming from the ground. Extracted groundwater is used to deliver nutrients to the plants through pumped systems that have water meters to log the volume of water used. Water use is regulated by the State, and must be reported to ensure protection of our natural resources. Too much water use could create saltwater intrusion problems for farmers, and could also damage the aquifer.
In South Florida, producers may be impacting sensitive receptors, such as private wells or wetlands, and must be protective of water quality and quantity. This is usually accomplished through the construction of an aboveground impoundment facility on the farm, which allows nutrient-laden water to settle prior to discharge. These are engineered structures, and need to be inspected annually by a licensed professional engineer.
Environmental consulting firms have the capability to assist farmers in addressing these water-based needs around their farms. The consultant can help manage the sometimes-overwhelming volume of data associated with water use, and can work with the State’s Water Management Districts to protect our natural resources from overuse…ultimately helping agriculture remain a viable industry in Florida.