Restoring Water Quality in the Everglades

However, in contrast to national trends, farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have reduced phosphorus enrichment from upwards of 1,000 parts per billion (ppb) per liter in the 1980s to less than 40 ppb in 2014. This has been achieved without the use of penalties against individual farms and is close to achieving the overall water quality restoration goal of phosphorus levels at 10 ppb or less.

Instead, the regulations require all farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area to jointly reduce phosphorus levels each year by 25% against a 1980's baseline.

This research explores how farmers have worked together and with regulators to reduce phosphorus enrichment, given that irrigation canals and subsurface water flows mix phosphorus levels together in the area’s shared drainage water. Thus, the phosphorus enrichment or reduction of one farm impacts the compliance of all farms.

By exploring the institutional dimensions of water management—the combination of both formal regulations and informal codes of conduct—this research will contribute to understanding how regulatory monitoring and enforcement and farmer collective action overcome the dilemma of water quality impairment.