The Stream, July 13 2022: Florida Judge Strikes Down “Rights to Nature” Amendment Two Years After Voters Overwhelmingly Pass Initiative


  • California’s Department of Water Resources says that while a barrier in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta is protecting drinking water supplies, it may be harming wildlife.
  • A new report out of Australia reveals that a massive horticulture project overstated its economic benefits and could threaten water supplies and Indigenous communities.
  • Monsoon rains in Pakistan flood entire communities and claim more than 100 lives.
  • A small town in Belgium struggles to rebuild over a year after devastating floods.

A Florida judge strikes down a local charter amendment to protect waterways from polluters.

“We’ve got to keep fighting. We’re back to fighting this the way we’ve fought for decades here in Florida, using our existing environmental protection laws.”

—Florida environmentalist Chuck O’Neal

A Florida judge struck down an amendment to the Orange County Charter that protected lakes, wetlands, and streams from pollution. The “rights to nature” amendment was passed overwhelmingly by Greater Orlando voters in 2020, four months after a state legislator inserted a clause into an omnibus bill that prevented local governments from granting legal rights to “a plant, an animal, a body of water, or any other part of the natural environment.” In her opinion, Circuit Court Judge Paetra T. Brownlee cited the omnibus bill, writing that the Florida state legislature holds the power to set environmental policy and preempt county and local laws.

  • In Context: The Orange County amendment was one of a handful across the country after the 2020 election in which voters endorsed new protections for waterways or property taxes that will fund water projects. Voters in Utah and Wyoming also approved constitutional amendments that fix technical matters related to municipal water supply and water infrastructure spending.

— Jane Johnston, Stream Editor

Recent WaterNews from Circle of Blue

“A New Zone of Uncertainty”: What West Virginia v. EPA Means for Water and Environment – The Supreme Court’s empowerment of the “major questions” doctrine could limit the federal government’s agility at a time when it is urgently needed.

What’s Up With Water–July 12, 2022 – This week’s episode of What’s Up With Water covers how states in the American West are coping with a drying Colorado River and a nearly-completed water pipeline project in Israel to combat water scarcity.

California Department of Water Resources Releases Environmental Impact Report on Salinity Barrier in Delta Region

This week, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) released a draft Environmental Impacts Report to determine the pros and cons of repeated use of a temporary drought salinity barrier in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. The report found that while the barrier successfully blocked saltwater, native animal species were being impacted. The barrier stops salt water from the Bay Area from contaminating the freshwater delta system during times of severe drought. Contamination of the delta’s freshwater supplies would pollute the drinking water of millions of people, including farmers who rely on the delta for irrigation.

More drought news

  • The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will increase the daily limit of fish an angler can catch at five different lakes and reservoirs as water levels continue to drop.
  • The Associated Press captures Lake Meads record-low water levels in photos.

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers


A new report from Australia’ Central Land Council has revealed that the economic benefits of a massive horticulture project in the Northern Territory were wildly overstated, while ecological, cultural, and social challenges have been overlooked. The 3,500-hectare (around 8,659-acre) fruit and vegetable farm is being spearheaded by Fortune Agribusiness, an agricultural production company based in Victoria. The report found that Fortune Agribusiness, in addition to overstating the number of permanent jobs the project will generate and its economic contributions, also estimated that the Northern Territory government is set to allow the company to extract more than $300 million in groundwater over the next 30 years. Central Land Council chief executive Les Turner said the project will threaten Aboriginal communities and land if it moves forward.

  • More Australia News: Residents in Sydney returned to their homes late last week after flooding forced evacuations for the third time this year. 


Monsoon rains have killed at least 150 people and injured another 163 people in Pakistan over the last month, the Associated Press reports. The rains also damaged homes, roads, bridges, and power stations across the country. Parts of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, were entirely underwater on Monday, leaving some residents and commuters stranded. Cities across the country struggle to mitigate the impacts of monsoons every year, many citing poor government planning. Experts say climate change is only worsening the issue by creating more frequent and intense storms.

On the Radar

Over a year after flooding devastated parts of southern and eastern Belgium, the town of Limbourg is struggling to recover. City officials say they are considering how best to rebuild their community while adapting to the growing threat of climate change and future flooding. That is not easy, the city’s mayor said, when also considering concerns over public finances as the government battles multiple crises, including COVID-19.

More Water News

Drought in Somalia: Nearly half of Somalis face acute food insecurity due to perpetual drought.

Heatwave in Portugal: A sweltering heatwave in Portugal has sparked wildfires across the northern and central regions of the country.

Predicting Climate Disasters: Devastating floods in Yellowstone National Park last month reveal flaws in forecasting models as climate change worsens.

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