Wednesday, February 4, 2009



I'm subscribed to Brown and Caldwell's Water News (thanks to a cyber friend) and every week they send me a round-up of water news from all over. Time after time it's pretty much the same story. In Pinellas County Florida the headline reads: "Officials worry about drinking water supplies" and the story is "lack of rainfall coupled with increasing demand for water has drawn the reservoir down"...... "officials are worried the restrictions may not be enough". Another article read "despite spending millions of dollars on a reservoir and a desalination plant, Tampa Bay Water expects to pump far more groundwater than it's supposed to this spring..."

In California the headline is "Severe drought expected after mild January" and the "story is: "We're definitely in really bad shape," said Elissa Lynn, chief meteorologist with the state Department of Water Resources.”People can expect to pay higher prices for produce ... and more agencies may be rationing ... some raising fees. We just don't have enough water."

In Mexico the headline is: "Mexico City braces for water rationing" and the story is: "Supplies will be cut or reduced to homes in many areas of the capital this weekend, making a scarce resource even scarcer. We are running out of water,' an official said."

(In all fairness why does water ever make the news? Too much, too little, or too polluted. Though lately, I've been seeing worn out infrastructure added to the mix.)

The approval of the Pointe at Chessers Gap, a town house development in Sebastian consisting of 116-units on 14.5-acres got me thinking about our local supply of water. It doesn't seem like a big deal until you start thinking about all the other high density subdivisions previously approved or in the pipelines, or all the land you see sitting around with for sale signs on it. I went to the Indian River County website to learn where the water comes from for those with city water and what their plans are to meet future water needs. One page states the water currently comes from "an abundant groundwater supply" through two 750' deep wells to the Floridan Aquifer. But in the PDF file titled "CDM Alternative Water Supply Master Plan- Draft, IRC Department of Utility Services June 2007" it stated at the end of 2006 they were in danger of exceeding what they were allotted to take from that "abundant supply" and had to get a "Temporary Consumptive Use Permit" in order to withdraw more. According to the Pinellas County article, "once salt water enters an aquifer, that source of drinking water is lost forever". That's why you don't want to draw it down too far. 78 pages of CDM's report not thoroughly read or completely understood I've condensed it anyway to good news and bad news; as follows:

The good news:
They know we need to plan for future water needs.
The Board of County Commissioners (I assume) is pursuing alternative water supplies.
They state the growth between the years 2003 to 2006 far exceeded what was anticipated. (Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, so I've heard.)
They drafted the alternatives with the pros and cons as well as cost impacts.
They laid out objectives. ;-)

The bad news:
I don't believe the planning table they're using for expected population growth through 2025 takes into account increasing densities.
As it is the population expected to be served by city water by 2025 (173,329) is about double what it was in 2006 (88,233). (Note: double in less than 20 years and that's just where city water is served.)
The report recommends an alternative source by 2017.
The alternatives are surficial aquifer withdrawals (shallow wells like those for homes not served by city water), surface water (reservoirs) and desalination.
They use Tampa Bay as references. Tampa Bay is in Pinellas County. They've already been there, done all that and they still don't have enough. See above.

Darn. When I first heard about the 10,000 acre reservoir planned in Fellsmere I thought I could set water supply aside as a concern of growth. But after reading the article about Pinellas County's water woes; it dawned on me the reservoir in Fellsmere will be funded by the St. Johns Water Management District. The SJWMD covers 18 counties from IRC all the way to Nassau County. How many of those counties will be relying on that source upon completion too? I know a couple of counties above IRC have reached their sustainable limits of aquifer withdrawals and need alternatives now.

Is that how it happened to Pinellas County? They counted on a big reservoir for future water supplies so they didn't see the harm with a big subdivision here and an increased density subdivision there. When that was used up it was on to a desalination plant, and yet more subdivisions here and there.... If we're looking to Tampa Bay Water as a guide to our future water needs, are we setting ourselves up for the same story? The same 'old' story being told around the country and the world?

Well I guess we can always drink wine. Oh wait, no water, no grapes, no wine.

Link to the CDM Alternative Water Supply Plan:

TTFN, LDouglas


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