By Julio Fuentes
Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
South Floridians need to pay attention to the fight going on right now in Congress that could have a dangerous effect on our drinking water supply.
There’s a misguided proposal to change the federal law that for 20 years has safeguarded South Florida’s water supply, known as the Savings Clause. This risky change is exactly what Florida does not need right now while we rebuild our economy as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Savings Clause protects our water supply until we can find another adequate to meet our state’s needs and in particular, those of the 7 million people — among them 5 million Hispanics — in South Florida who rely on it.
Yet a loud minority wants to break the deal and ignore sound water management and science by forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change the very systems the Savings Clause protects. This threatens important Everglades conservation work and our water supply.
We’re lucky June’s rains averted a drought, which would have been catastrophic because COVID-19 has made water essential for not only everyday living but for life-saving hygiene. It’s also necessary for our businesses — one of four of which in Florida is Hispanic-owned — to thrive, for our skilled union workers to have more jobs and to keep our utilities running smoothly.
Fortunately, a bipartisan group of representatives in Congress is supporting a proposal to defend the Savings Clause in the upcoming Water Resources Development Act of 2020, and it’s backed by cities, business and conservation groups. We urge all South Floridians to tell their members of Congress to support this legislation.
We know Florida has many water issues, but none is bigger for all of us than keeping our supply of clean, safe drinking water intact.
Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.