(1) By interlocal agreement between counties, municipalities, or special districts, as applicable, pursuant to the Florida Interlocal Cooperation Act of 1969, s. 163.01, and upon the approval of the Secretary of Environmental Protection to ensure that such agreement will be in the public interest and complies with the intent and purposes of this act, regional water supply authorities may be created for the purpose of developing, recovering, storing, and supplying water for county or municipal purposes in such a manner as will give priority to reducing adverse environmental effects of excessive or improper withdrawals of water from concentrated areas. In approving said agreement the Secretary of Environmental Protection shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) Whether the geographic territory of the proposed authority is of sufficient size and character to reduce the environmental effects of improper or excessive withdrawals of water from concentrated areas.
(b) The maximization of economic development of the water resources within the territory of the proposed authority.
(c) The availability of a dependable and adequate water supply.
(d) The ability of any proposed authority to design, construct, operate, and maintain water supply facilities in the locations, and at the times necessary, to ensure that an adequate water supply will be available to all citizens within the authority.
(e) The effect or impact of any proposed authority on any municipality, county, or existing authority or authorities.
(f) The existing needs of the water users within the area of the authority.
(2) In addition to other powers and duties agreed upon, and notwithstanding the provisions of s. 163.01, such authority may:
(a) Upon approval of the electors residing in each county or municipality within the territory to be included in any authority, levy ad valorem taxes, not to exceed 0.5 mill, pursuant to s. 9(b), Art. VII of the State Constitution. No tax authorized by this paragraph shall be levied in any county or municipality without an affirmative vote of the electors residing in such county or municipality.
(b) Acquire water and water rights; develop, store, and transport water; provide, sell, and deliver water for county or municipal uses and purposes; and provide for the furnishing of such water and water service upon terms and conditions and at rates which will apportion to parties and nonparties an equitable share of the capital cost and operating expense of the authority’s work to the purchaser.
(c) Collect, treat, and recover wastewater.
(d) Not engage in local distribution.
(e) Exercise the power of eminent domain in the manner provided by law for the condemnation of private property for public use to acquire title to such interest in real property as is necessary to the exercise of the powers herein granted, except water and water rights already devoted to reasonable and beneficial use or any water production or transmission facilities owned by any county or municipality.
(f) Issue revenue bonds in the manner prescribed by the Revenue Bond Act of 1953, as amended, part I, chapter 159, to be payable solely from funds derived from the sale of water by the authority to any county or municipality. Such bonds may be additionally secured by the full faith and credit of any county or municipality, as provided by s. 159.16 or by a pledge of excise taxes, as provided by s. 159.19. For the purpose of issuing revenue bonds, an authority shall be considered a “unit” as defined in s. 159.02(2) and as that term is used in the Revenue Bond Act of 1953, as amended. Such bonds may be issued to finance the cost of acquiring properties and facilities for the production and transmission of water by the authority to any county or municipality, which cost shall include the acquisition of real property and easements therein for such purposes. Such bonds may be in the form of refunding bonds to take up any outstanding bonds of the authority or of any county or municipality where such outstanding bonds are secured by properties and facilities for production and transmission of water, which properties and facilities are being acquired by the authority. Refunding bonds may be issued to take up and refund all outstanding bonds of said authority that are subject to call and termination, and all bonds of said authority that are not subject to call or redemption, when the surrender of said bonds can be procured from the holder thereof at prices satisfactory to the authority. Such refunding bonds may be issued at any time when, in the judgment of the authority, it will be to the best interest of the authority financially or economically by securing a lower rate of interest on said bonds or by extending the time of maturity of said bonds or, for any other reason, in the judgment of the authority, advantageous to said authority.
(g) Sue and be sued in its own name.
(h) Borrow money and incur indebtedness and issue bonds or other evidence of such indebtedness.
(i) Join with one or more other public corporations for the purpose of carrying out any of its powers and for that purpose to contract with such other public corporation or corporations for the purpose of financing such acquisitions, construction, and operations. Such contracts may provide for contributions to be made by each party thereto, for the division and apportionment of the expenses of such acquisitions and operations, and for the division and apportionment of the benefits, services, and products therefrom. Such contract may contain such other and further covenants and agreements as may be necessary and convenient to accomplish the purposes hereof.
(3) A regional water supply authority is authorized to develop, construct, operate, maintain, or contract for alternative sources of potable water, including desalinated water, and pipelines to interconnect authority sources and facilities, either by itself or jointly with a water management district; however, such alternative potable water sources, facilities, and pipelines may also be privately developed, constructed, owned, operated, and maintained, in which event an authority and a water management district are authorized to pledge and contribute their funds to reduce the wholesale cost of water from such alternative sources of potable water supplied by an authority to its member governments.
(4) When it is found to be in the public interest, for the public convenience and welfare, for a public benefit, and necessary for carrying out the purpose of any regional water supply authority, any state agency, county, water control district existing pursuant to chapter 298, water management district existing pursuant to this chapter, municipality, governmental agency, or public corporation in this state holding title to any interest in land is hereby authorized, in its discretion, to convey the title to or dedicate land, title to which is in such entity, including tax-reverted land, or to grant use-rights therein, to any regional water supply authority created pursuant to this section. Land granted or conveyed to such authority shall be for the public purposes of such authority and may be made subject to the condition that in the event said land is not so used, or if used and subsequently its use for said purpose is abandoned, the interest granted shall cease as to such authority and shall automatically revert to the granting entity.
(5) Each county, special district, or municipality that is a party to an agreement pursuant to subsection (1) shall have a preferential right to purchase water from the regional water supply authority for use by such county, special district, or municipality.
(6) In carrying out the provisions of this section, any county wherein water is withdrawn by the authority shall not be deprived, directly or indirectly, of the prior right to the reasonable and beneficial use of water which is required adequately to supply the reasonable and beneficial needs of the county or any of the inhabitants or property owners therein.
(7) Upon a resolution adopted by the governing body of any county or municipality, the authority may, subject to a majority vote of its voting members, include such county or municipality in its regional water supply authority upon such terms and conditions as may be prescribed.
(8) The authority shall design, construct, operate, and maintain facilities in the locations and at the times necessary to ensure that an adequate water supply will be available to all citizens within the authority.
(9) Where a water supply authority exists pursuant to this section or s. 373.715 under a voluntary interlocal agreement that is consistent with requirements in s. 373.715(1)(b) and receives or maintains consumptive use permits under this voluntary agreement consistent with the water supply plan, if any, adopted by the governing board, such authority shall be exempt from consideration by the governing board or department of the factors specified in s. 373.223(3)(a)-(g) and the submissions required by s. 373.229(3). Such exemptions shall apply only to water sources within the jurisdictional areas of such voluntary water supply interlocal agreements.