Water-Related News

What is the proposed Florida Wetlands Protection ballot amendment?

The Florida Wetlands Protection Amendment intends to prohibit the dredging, filling, draining or other degradation of wetlands.

Chuck O’Neal is the Chairman of the Florida Rights of Nature Network and he is chairman of the FL5 DOT Org Political Committee. He says Florida's wetlands are the hydrological kidneys of the state, and that they serve to filter the water that comes into them.

"We really have these free solar-powered water filtration operations going on within the state. They're called wetlands," said O'Neal. "People look at them. And they say, well, that's just a bunch of weeds, they're coming out of water. But they are so critically important to the state. Florida was given, from its creation, the most acreage of any state in the country with natural wetlands."

O’Neal laments that over half of Florida’s wetlands have been dredged and filled for development.

Conservation a key strategy for reducing water demand in Polk County

Polk County, which includes 17 municipalities, is the fifth largest county in Florida and lies wholly within the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) planning region. Fresh groundwater from the Upper Floridan aquifer is the principal source of water supply within Polk County, currently meeting approximately 96 percent of existing water supply demands. Based on the 2020 CFWI Regional Water Supply Plan, total water use across the region is projected to increase from approximately 667 million gallons per day (mgd) to approximately 908 mgd by 2040, a 36% increase. Polk County also lies within the geographical boundaries of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (District) Southern Water Use Caution Area (SWUCA) where there are additional limitations to available traditional groundwater quantities to meet future water needs. Moreover, Polk has several lakes that are not meeting their minimum flows and levels (MFLs) and multiple stressed wetlands. To address current and future demands, the District is partnering with the Polk Regional Water Cooperative (PRWC) to identify and develop non-traditional, alternative water supplies (AWS). In addition, robust conservation strategies must be utilized to stretch currently available water quantities and prevent further degradation of water resources.

The District is partnering with the PRWC to implement conservation strategies countywide. The PRWC completed a Demand Management Plan (DMP) in September 2020 that will serve as the blueprint for the PRWC’s future conservation efforts. The DMP was co-funded by the District for the purpose of quantifying long-term conservation potential, developing an implementation strategy, and estimating the financial benefits that reduced demand has on the timing and scale of AWS development. The DMP identifies 6.6 mgd of passive water savings and up to 5 mgd of active water savings over the 20-year planning horizon. A reduction in demand of this magnitude could result in a substantial reduction of nearly $100 million in AWS costs.

One of the chief strategies included in the DMP is the recommended implementation of mandatory Florida Water Star (FWS) standards for all new construction. To date, six Polk County municipalities have adopted FWS ordinances and several others are in the evaluation process. The FWS program addresses new construction; however, to address existing homes/businesses, other conservation programs must be implemented. Many of these programs are co-funded by the District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and include conservation kits (showerheads, dye tabs, faucet aerators, etc.), rain sensors, smart irrigation controllers, high-efficiency toilet rebates, irrigation system evaluations, and irrigation restriction enforcement. See prwcwater.org/water-conservation/ for more information.

Florida DEP launches ‘One Water Florida’ campaign promoting recycled water

TALLAHASSEE – On July 16th the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the launch of the One Water Florida Campaign to inform Floridians on the use of recycled water in the state to meet the growing demand for water. This campaign was designed in coordination with the state’s five water management districts, WateReuse Florida, the Potable Reuse Commission, the American Water Works Association Florida Section, the Florida Water Environment Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.

“Our water supply in Florida is not endless, and reusing water relieves pressure on Florida’s water resources and ecosystems,” said DEP Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “This is one component of the state’s water supply planning to safely and sustainably diversify our water resources while protecting our precious environment.”

Florida is growing at a record pace with nearly 1,000 people moving to the state daily as well as an average of 350,000 people visiting the state each day. It is estimated that 1 billion gallons per day of additional water will be needed by 2040. Florida’s aquifers, lakes and springs cannot sustain the demand for water, and expanding the use of recycled water is an essential way to safely ensure there is plenty of water to meet the demand.

Potable reuse is highly treated recycled water from various sources that can be used for drinking, cooking and bathing. Purification uses proven technology to ensure the water is safe, with recycled water meeting all stringent state and federal drinking water standards. A variety of recycled water projects have been safely and successfully implemented throughout the United States, around the globe and even in outer space.

As part of the campaign, a new webpage has been launched to inform Floridians on recycled water as a future water source in the state. The website features:

  • Fact sheets and frequently asked questions.
  • Information on experts working with recycled water.
  • An interactive map highlighting recycled water projects around the state, country and world.
  • Additional resources such as research, presentations, videos and online publications.

Learn more about recycled water at OneWaterFlorida.org.

FWC and DEP host Red Tide roundtable

ST. PETERSBURG – Today, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Executive Director Eric Sutton and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton joined affected stakeholders to discuss Florida’s multifaceted efforts to combat red tide.

During the roundtable, hosted at the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, DEP highlighted funding it is allocating to bolster local response efforts mitigating the impacts of red tide in the greater Tampa Bay area.

In response to this red tide event, the state has been engaged with stakeholders and is in the process of executing grant agreements with Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Lakeland’s ‘dirty problem’ becomes focus of $22.7M American Rescue Plan funds

LAKELAND — Lakeland officials got down and dirty Tuesday morning as they decided how to divvy up the millions the city will receive in federal funds.

City commissioners agreed to set aside $17.8 million of the $22.7 million, or nearly 80% of what Lakeland is expecting to receive through the American Rescue Plan Act, to tackle an overdue infrastructure project.

"We found out we have a $20 million problem in sewage and wastewater," Mayor Bill Mutz said Tuesday morning. "Yes, it's a dirty problem."

Bill Anderson, the city's director of water utilities, said a major gravity-fed sewer line that serves a portion of southwest Lakeland is in dire need of replacement. It's roughly 2.7 miles of pipe that starts west of Lake Hunter, near Westside Park, moves southeast to a corner of the lake, then follows a portion of Harden Boulevard before traveling around Beacon Hill.

Documentary: Florida’s freshwater springs are in jeopardy

The health and future of Florida’s natural freshwater springs may be in jeopardy, a new documentary suggests.

The two-part series, “The Fellowship of the Springs,” shines a light on the Sunshine State’s unique artesian springs, the threats to their livelihood and the efforts to save them. Both parts of the documentary will air 4-6 p.m. July 8 on WUCF in Central Florida.

Oscar Corral, the film’s director and producer, is based in Miami but fell in love with the springs when traveling with his family.

“I’m somewhat obsessed with Florida’s springs; I love them,” he said. “The springs are incredibly unique. There’s really no place on Earth that has springs like this that are this size, this pristine and under this concentration.

In the documentary, scenes show families and friends enjoying pristine blue waters at Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs, Devil’s Den, Weeki Wachee Springs and Blue Spring.These “magic waters” are known as tourism destinations, as well as habitats for manatees, turtles and alligators. In addition, the Floridan Aquifer, the source of the springs, provides drinking water for a wide swath of Florida and parts of Georgia.

“We believe we have the largest concentration of artesian springs, these pressurized springs that come out of a confined aquifer, in the whole world,” said Dr. Robert Knight, director of the Florida Springs Institute. “In their natural state, they’re extremely productive aquatic systems because the water is clear and a constant temperature.”

These more than 1,000 recorded springs represent a unique habitat unseen in many parts of the world. But these beacons of tourism and sustenance in Florida are under threat.

EPA revokes use of phosphate waste products in road beds

Several environmental advocacy groups sued last year to overturn the waiver, which would have allowed the use of the slightly radioactive waste in road construction.

The Biden administration has withdrawn a previous approval of the use of phosphogypsum - the toxic byproduct of phosphate mining - in road beds.

This means the mountains of phosphate waste peppering Florida's landscape will remain.

The decision overturns a Trump-era move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow use of the byproducts of fertilizer production. It was the first and only proposed alternative use of the slightly radioactive waste, now stored in two dozen mountainous "gypstacks" around the Tampa Bay region that can reach 50 stories high.

"The idea that we could possibly keep people and the environment safe from radioactive material, which then could become dispersed throughout the environment - as opposed to being kept in stacks - there's no foundation for that assumption," said Jaclyn Lopez with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Hers is one of the environmental advocacy groups that sued last year to overturn the waiver, which meant that it never went into effect. That lawsuit is now moot.

"Our preference would be that the industry stops making this radioactive waste," Lopez said, "and in the meantime we keep it in the stacks, so at least we know where it is, and we can keep the companies that create the waste financially responsible for them, and continue to better regulate this industry that seems to have a pretty poor track record of protecting the environment from its activities."

Industry advocates have said use in road beds would be one way to whittle down gypstacks, which have caused several environmental catastrophes in recent years. One, at Piney Point in Manatee County, allowed more than 200 million gallons of wastewater stored there to flow into Tampa Bay earlier this year.

Florida has one billion tons of radioactive phosphogypsum in two dozen stacks, including Piney Point. That nutrient-rich water has been blamed for algae blooms, and possibly exacerbating the affects of red tide.

The waiver had been requested by the Fertilizer Institute, which represents manufacturers and suppliers, including phosphate miners. But since only the miners construct gypstacks, the institute couldn't give the EPA enough information that the use in road base would be safe.

Here's an excerpt from the ruling:

Under Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations, EPA may approve a request for a specific use of phosphogypsum if it is determined that the proposed use is at least as protective of human health as placement in a stack. Upon review, EPA found that The Fertilizer Institute’s request did not provide all the information required for a complete request under these regulations. The EPA withdrew the approval for this reason. The decision was effective immediately, and phosphogypsum remains prohibited from use in road construction.

Video of June 23rd Blue-Green Algae Task Force meeting available

The State Blue-Green Algae Task Force met on June 23rd at the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District in West Palm Beach.

Information at the meeting included a presentation on Innovative Technology from the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and a presentation on Lake Okeechobee Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Monitoring and Management Strategies by the South Florida Water Management District.

For more information about the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, visit https://protectingfloridatogether.gov/state-action/blue-green-algae-task-force.