2017 Southeast Florida Stakeholder Engagement Workshop

Understanding water challenges, success stories, and potential solutions


Date: February 9, 2017, 9 am to 4 pm

Location: FIU College of Business Complex Room 235 11200 SW 8th Street Miami, FL 33199


The meeting represented the second regional engagement of the Urban Water Innovations Network (UWIN) in Southeast Florida.  After a brief update on the UWIN project, UWIN researchers shared results from the first year of national stakeholder workshops as well as from the SEFL regional workshop.  Participants were provided a chance to add to the discussion and to complete the lists of challenges and barriers which were developed through year one interactions.  Stakeholders then identified, through dot voting, the most pressing regional barriers to implementation of solutions for integrated urban water management.  During the afternoon sessions, participants shared their views on those barriers and also discussed potential mechanisms to help the region overcome those barriers, using a world cafe format.  The resulting discussion was insightful and nuanced, providing the research team with a much deeper understanding of the context for decision making and the obstacles that regional and local water stakeholders are confronting.  Before closing, participants provided feedback on the types of research and information products that would be most useful in their decision environments. More details on information shared during the session are included in the sections below.


Workshop Outcomes

The UWIN 2017 Southeast Florida Stakeholder Meeting was a productive and enjoyable experience.  In addition to having a chance to describe our UWIN project to meeting participants, we appreciated the valuable feedback that was provided and the insights that were shared about our complex water system by stakeholder participants.  Below, we review workshop outcomes by reviewing: 1) the most pressing regional barriers as identified by and described by participants (non-uniform building standards, political processes, and insufficient funding), 2) detailed description of each barrier and potential solutions, and 3) the additional challenges that emerged as discussion topics from workshop sessions.  Finally, further opportunities to align UWIN research with regional needs which were discussed during the workshop are described.  Please let us know if our summary reflects your interpretation of the meeting and/or if we missed anything important.  After incorporating your input, we will publish a version of our notes online and share it with researchers and stakeholders from the other UWIN regions.


Most pressing barriers to achieving sustainability

Non-uniform building standards

Description of barrier

  • Absence of building standards/ infrastructure design standards
  • Land use planning and zoning differs across municipalities
  • Enforcement of current building codes is tenuous
    • Need exists for relationships among multiple parties/departmenta
  • Complexities in enforcing standards across departments are challenging
  • Political power and influence/ resistance to change
    • Developers hold political power/ commissioners resist introducing stronger standards
    • Development constraints created by new regulations create conflict
    • Home builder associations hold political power and these groups resist any additional costs

Opportunities/ Potential solutions to barriers

  • Opportunity to use parking lots and shared ride services
  • View Climate Change Compact as a vehicle to move toward changing the code
    • Need to have the ability to change the code
    • Need for uniform approach
  • Requires planning and designing for future using county ordinances (Ex. Broward Cty ordinances)
    • Create maps of future conditions (inundation maps, GW level maps, flood maps (including 100-year flood map), etc.)
    • Maps could be used in county plans for infrastructure
  • Tri-county collaboration needed
  • Need to identify: What are we asking for?
    • Total uniformity does not make sense, county uniformity as a goal
    • Set standard
    • Toolbox for recommendations
    • Elevation- most cost effective to raise 1st floor elevation standard
  • Need to consider: How are changes made?
    • Referendum
    • Building code reviewed every 3 years
    • BORA?
    • New vs. retrofit
    • Give more power to city committees who work with commissions
  • Frame potential building code changes in terms of benefits
    • Less susceptibility to flooding means lower insurance
  • Start with county level planning
    • Identify ways to overcome capacity barrier
    • Ask counties to come up with maps in 5 years
    • Increase funding for local governments to plan/educate

Insufficient funding

Description of barrier

  • Framing issues
  • Paying now for benefits to future generation
  • Costs of delayed action
    • Lost revenue
    • Damage costs
    • Maintenance
  • Absence of one big pot of money/ incremental costs
  • Not looking at a one-time expenditure
  • Multiple sources of funding needed
  • Commission will not raise taxes
  • Resistance of local elected officials to fund initiatives
  • Competing interests for same funds
  • Connection with return on investment is uncertain
    • Lack of economic data to support ROI information
  • Sometimes funding does not actually exist (ex. If a project has not been funded before)
  • Coordination and timing of funding availability are a challenge
  • Perception that someone else should be funding initiatives, especially federal govt.


Opportunities/ Potential solutions to barriers

  • Increase visible co-benefits
  • Land use design innovation strategies
  • Shared community stormwater retention planning
  • Value information needed for branding projects
  • Look to 20-year Delta plan for SFWMD as example


Politics/ Political Processes

Description of barrier

  • Response to science is challenging
    • Complexity is overwhelming
    • Uncertainty is great
    • Science does not occur in vacuum
    • Tech staff and experts need to recommend sound solutions as political obstacles won’t be fixed anytime soon
  • Politicians are driven by self-interests (re-election)
  • Short term political plans vs need for long term planning
  • Politicians not trained/educated in areas they govern
  • Visibility of issues causes climate change to be of lower priority
    • Urgency is lacking, causing other issues to take precedence
  • Lack of willingness of people in scientific community to go on record
    • Makes messaging difficult to convey
  • Projects require different levels of government action
    • Belief systems differ across these levels of governance
  • Political pressures drive suboptimal solutions


Opportunities/ Potential solutions to barriers

  • Educate communities
  • Formalize laws on climate change regulation/ action
  • Include climate change response in job descriptions
  • Community organizations should have voice at budgetary meetings
  • Term limits for elected officials
  • Improvements in communication of science
  • Work within/ around political frameworks
  • Build plan for strategizing from an advocacy perspective
  • Take advantage of regional progress


Additional challenges described

  • Lack of decision strategy / planning tools for long term
  • Limited understanding of deep uncertainty
  • Two million people in region close to poverty
  • LOS for flood protection basin by basin
  • Movement/ action is at local/ regional scale…county not waiting for feds but needs to know district’s long range plans for drainage and feasibility of system
  • Struggle with vision of future, how to maintain current conditions under different future conditions?
  • Context of extremes- one side saying its over/ other side saying no problem at all
  • Huge dependence on CSF system at local scale
  • Affordable housing crisis
  • Long term planning challenges
    • Florida building code does not include climate change
    • FEMA codes do not account for climate change
    • Need to plan for future conditions
    • Vulnerable communities are being pressured (by housing costs) to move toward cheaper/more vulnerable areas


Opportunities for research alignment

SAC members also shared perspectives on information that is needed to support sustainability efforts which UWIN might be able to help with. Examples included:

  • Climate science based information including actionable guidance on climate change and skill in projections is needed by regional stakeholders.
  • Tools that demonstrate economic savings derived from resiliency efforts / Integration of resiliency investments as risk reductions through modeling efforts need to be expanded.


Meeting Goals:

The purposes of the 2017 UWIN Southeast Florida Stakeholder Meeting are to (1) engage new network members, (2) provide an overview of and a status report on the UWIN project including review of  findings from last year’s local and national stakeholder meetings, (3) identify new and additional urban water sustainability concerns, needs, and potential solutions within the Southeast Florida region and collectively think about how UWIN research can assist, and (4) develop a mutual understanding of water governance and decision making in the region.  Input gathered during the meeting will be used to guide national-level project efforts, which include the development of an urban water sustainability framework, the UWIN Blueprint.


8:30 am – 9:00 am Hot Breakfast
9:00 am – 9:30 am Welcome & Introductions

Mike Sukop (Regional Engagement Leader): Welcome and agenda overview

All: Self-introductions

9:30 am – 10:00 am UWIN Overview

Mazdak Arabi

  • UWIN Goals
  • Stakeholder Input
  • Meeting Arc
  • Emphasis on problems/issues, strengths, governance, metrics, solutions
10:00 am – 10:30 am Review of National Year One Stakeholder Input

Jessica Bolson

SEFL and other regions’ concerns and issues from national perspective/cross regional comparison

10:30 am – 10:45 am Break

Review charts on walls that summarize Year One; think about challenges, new perspectives not yet captured

10:45 am – 11:15 pm Review of Local Year One Stakeholder Input

Jessica Bolson/Gary Pivo

What we are learning about governance, to provide a framework and language for discussing barriers and what triggers change

11:15 pm – 11:45 pm Activity #1:  Add New Perspectives and Rank

Review charts on walls. What more could be added?  Ranking.

11:45 pm – 12:00 pm UWIN Projects/Actionable Science

Mazdak Arabi

Identified concerns/issues being addressed by UWIN projects

12:00 am – 1:00 pm Lunch – Buffet
1:00 pm – 2:15 pm Activity #2: Decisions and Actions Around Barriers

What kind of decisions and actions would foster effective responses to the challenges corresponding to the issues?

2:15 pm – 2:30 pm Break
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm Activity #2: Decsions and Actions Around Barriers (con’t)

What did we learn from each other?

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm Closing Discussion

Synthesis, next steps, how to stay in touch and share information