Local Water Policy & Quality Standards

Image from the Clean Water and You Water School at Lake Henrietta

 

Water Quality Standards in Leon County 

To address water quality issues, Leon County has a series of policies, regulations and standard operating procedures to reduce the impacts of nonpoint source pollution and minimize adverse changes to our watersheds. Leon County staff monitors the quality of our water resources through field sampling to analyze the chemical makeup and assess the biological health of our water bodies. In analyzing and evaluating the health of our water bodies, we have adopted a holistic approach using combinations of chemical and biological parameters since a single indicator is inadequate for proper evaluation. The data collected guides Leon County in making decisions on how our existing policies, regulations and procedures can further protect our water resources. These programs continue to serve as key components of the County’s environmental stewardship efforts and aid in the development of future recommendations related to capital project funding in support of maintaining healthy water bodies and stormwater facilities.

An important aspect of water quality protection includes the protection of the County’s natural features. Natural waterbodies, watercourses, cultural resources, wetlands and floodplains as well as other features are protected during the development review process by requiring setback buffers and in some cases conservation easements. Special Development Zones (SDZs) have been created for major surface waters such as Lake Jackson, Bradford Brook Chain-of-Lakes, Fred George Basin, Lake Iamonia, Lake McBride and Lake Lafayette. The SDZs provide development restrictions that become more restrictive nearer to the edge of the surface water. 

Image of Willaims Landing

Leon County’s Water Resources Program is the primary source of data for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's total maximum daily load (TMDL) programs regarding waterbodies in the unincorporated areas of the County. This is based on the volume of data collected historically, as well as the number of lakes and streams sampled.

Leon County’s program is the only systematic effort to monitor the health of waterbodies in the unincorporated areas of the County and is one of the very few comprehensive County programs in Florida. Through our water quality monitoring program, Leon County has access to valuable scientific data that guides policy decisions focused on maintaining and preserving our water resources now and into the future.

Leon County Ordinances 

Leon County complies with all state and federal laws and regulations for the protection of both surface and ground waters. For a list of local ordinances relating to our water resources, see below. Leon County's Code of Ordinances is available online.

Coordinating with the Florida and National Association of Counties

Leon County Government stays engaged with our state and federal partners on a year-round basis to promote sound policies for the protection and preservation of our water resources. The County works closely with the Florida Association of Counties and the National Association of Counties to advocate on a variety of state and federal legislative issues affecting county governments, including water quality and water quantity issues. 

State Coordination

In February 2019, the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) created a Water Policy Committee comprised of 38 county commissioners from across the state. This committee serves as the Association's voice when addressing water related policy concerns and makes policy recommendations to the Florida Legislature and Congress. This committee takes a leadership role on behalf of all Florida counties in working with the Sate of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed Executive Order 19-12 shortly after taking office emphasizing the need to engage local government officials to help protect Florida's vulnerable coastline and natural resources. The FAC Water Policy Committee is charged with developing substantive state and federal level policy recommendations on all water quality and quantity issues in advance of the 2020 Florida Legislative Session.

Federal Coordination

In addition, the National Association of Counties (NACo) works at the federal level to advocate on behalf of county governments for policies that protect and improve the quality of local water systems, watersheds, rivers, streams, lakes and aquifers. Examples of federal policies on which NACo has advocated in recent years include:

  • Supporting federal funding to meet all federal Clean Water Act mandates imposed on counties;
  • Clarifying how county-owned conveyances are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act and the "Waters of the U.S." rule;
  • Supporting the passage of a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill during the 116th Congress and continue a regular two-year authorization cycle;
  • Supporting efforts to advance the achievement of national clean drinking water goals at the local, statewide and national levels;
  • Supporting expanded federal funding and increased flexibility for planning and implementation of wetland and watershed management at the local level; and
  • Supporting federal water conservation strategies that provide financial and technical assistance to state and local governments to design, implement and evaluate appropriate water conservation measures including the rehabilitation of water supply systems.

Counties play a dual role as both co-regulators and regulated entities in protecting the environment and providing public water services for our residents and businesses. As regulators, counties are often responsible for controlling water pollution at the local level. They may enact rules on illicit discharges, remove septic tanks and adopt setbacks for land use plans. They may be responsible for water recharge areas, green infrastructure, water conservation programs and pesticide use for mosquito abatement. Counties also provide extensive outreach and education to residents and businesses on protecting water quality and reducing water pollution. Additionally, counties own and maintain vast amounts of public infrastructure, including forty-five percent of America's road miles, nearly forty percent of bridges, drinking water utilities, wastewater treatment plants and stormwater infrastructure- all of which are subject to federal water quality laws.