Water-Related News

Peace River Water Authority may avert litigation

Polk utilities challenged increased withdrawals from river

A regional utility that wants to withdraw more water from the Peace River and several Polk County governments that filed litigation to block it from getting a permit to do so may settle their differences.

“We’re hopeful,” Patrick Lehman, executive director of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, said Thursday.

Lehman said a tentative agreement enables the Peace River authority to proceed with an expansion plan but perhaps “step down” the amount of additional water it could withdraw from the river.

The authority, the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative and the city of Lakeland intend to finalize the pact within 45 days.

Deadline extended to submit Central Florida Water Initiative supply project options

The Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) is working collaboratively with the region’s utilities, water users and local stakeholders to identify water supply project options to help meet our water supply needs, now and in the future. One piece of this effort is the creation a new list of potential projects to meet water users’ needs, which will be included in the upcoming 2020 CFWI Regional Water Supply Plan.

In March, the water management districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) formed a new CFWI work group dedicated to developing regional water supply project options. This group is made up of engineers, planners, and scientists from the water management districts, DEP, local governments and other area stakeholders. As part of this effort, the districts are currently reaching out to stakeholders in the Central Florida region to help develop ideas and concepts for new potential water supply, water resource development and water conservation project options.

Creating a list of potential water supply projects is a collaborative process and is based on voluntary input from area stakeholders. The districts are particularly focusing on identifying potential projects that achieve water conservation, provide reclaimed water to new water users, develop alternative water supplies, or benefit natural systems. Organizations or individuals which would like to submit a project option or concept for consideration in the Central Florida Regional Water Supply Plan are encouraged to contact their respective water management district representative listed below.

Potential project options can be submitted via mail or email. The Districts request that any responses be submitted by April 1, 2019, so that they can be considered for the 2020 Regional Water Supply Plan. A link to a project option form is provided below.

R. Thomas Kiger, P.E., Southwest Florida Water Management District Thomas.kiger@swfwmd.state.fl.us (352) 796-7211, ext. 4536

Lori Burklew, St. Johns River Water Management District lburklew@sjrwmd.com (407) 659-4813

Richard Nevulis, South Florida Water Management District rnevul@sfwmd.gov (561) 682-6242

Road project helps water quality

A completed road project in Auburndale will help reduce flooding and improve water quality thanks to a partnership between the District and the city.

Auburndale city leaders recently dedicated the PK Avenue project, which made improvements to the roadway that reduced residential flooding and helped improve water quality.

The project was co-operatively funded by the District, the Auburndale Community Redevelopment Agency, and the City of Auburndale. This $4.5 million project received $1,315,150 of its funding from the District.

Janie Hagberg, the District’s chief professional engineer, said the project will have a positive impact on the Auburndale community.

SWFWMD aims to reduce risk of wildfires by performing prescribed fires

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency last year. That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) will be conducting prescribed burns in November and December in Polk County.

The Hampton Tract is located west of Rock Ridge Road, north of U.S. Highway 98, north of Lakeland. Approximately 950 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat
  • Maintaining access for public recreation

SWFWMD conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year. Click here to learn more about why igniting prescribed burns now prepares lands for the next wildfire season.

Palmer: Several issues in Polk-Swiftmud legal showdown

During the past few months, I’ve been watching two contrasting trend lines.

One depicts falling water levels in the Polk County section of Peace River in the absence of significant rainfall during the past month or so.

The other depicts the rising tensions in reaction to the legal dispute between Polk County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) over conflicting plans to tap the Peace River to provide two growing areas of Florida with future drinking water supplies.

I’ve also been rereading a book published in 2003 recounting the history of the Tampa Bay water wars that were supposedly settled 20 years ago with the creation of a regional utility called Tampa Bay Water.

I was thinking about how all of these things are connected when I read a recent letter to the editor published in The Ledger that proposed that the downstream permit request could be modified “if and when Polk County starts to impact the Peace River.”

That sentiment is at least 75 years too late. Overpumping of the aquifer in Polk County eliminated the river’s base flow. Mine impoundments intercepted surface flow to river tributaries. Half a century of municipal and industrial sewer discharges and untreated urban stormwater runoff polluted the river’s headwaters.

Watershed groups have a positive impact on local water quality, study finds

Economists have found that in the United States, watershed groups have had a positive impact on their local water quality.

A new published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first empirical evidence that nonprofit organizations can provide public goods, said Christian Langpap, an Oregon State University economist and study co-author with Laura Grant, an assistant professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College.

In economics, a public good is a commodity or service that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from using, and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others. For these reasons, public goods can't be provided for profit and nonprofits can play an important role.

"Environmental nonprofit groups are assumed to provide public goods," said Langpap, an associate professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "But until now that assumption has never been tested empirically. We determined that the presence of water groups in a watershed resulted in improved water quality and higher proportions of swimmable and fishable water bodies."

The presence and activity of watershed groups can impact water quality in various ways, including oversight and monitoring, direct actions such as organizing volunteers for cleanups or restoration, and indirect actions like advocacy and education.

The researchers' analysis combined data on water quality and watershed groups for 2,150 watersheds in the continental United States from 1996 to 2008. The number of watershed groups across the lower 48 tripled during this period, from 500 to 1,500.