Water-Related News

Polk's water supplies OK now, but future will require planning, funds

Polk County residents and businesses use nearly 300 million gallons of water a day.

For now, Polk's public supply, industrial and agricultural operations are not facing shortages, but whether that will continue many years into the future is an unanswered question.

In 20 years, when the population increases from 600,000 to more than 900,000, demand is expected to grow and local utility officials are still working out the details of where to get the rest of the water.

Sinking new wells in the Floridan aquifer, which has been the main source of water in this part of Florida for more than a century, is reaching its limits, according to regional water managers.

That is because the amount of water use has become unsustainable, even though some major water users such as farmers and miners are using substantially less in recent decades. In 1990, Polk's water withdrawals totaled 437 million gallons a day.

Regional water managers ordered cutbacks in a large area of West Central Florida that included most of Polk County because water use was taxing the aquifer and affecting lakes and other surface water bodies and increasing salt water intrusion in coastal areas.

By the time these regulations took effect, there had already been noticeable, irreversible declines in aquifer levels that at times result in a dry riverbed in portions of the upper Peace River. Kissengen Spring, a second-magnitude spring near the river, quit flowing in 1950 as a result of overpumping of water from the aquifer.

That means utilities will be working to develop what are called alternative water supplies.