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.