Water-Related News

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.