Water-Related News

Nikki Fried, Michele Rayner-Goolsby roll out clean water initiative

Rayner-Goolsby plans to sponsor legislation next year dealing with gypsum stacks.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby rolled out plans Tuesday to revamp the state’s out-dated clean water policies, including with legislation that would help mitigate red tide outbreaks currently plaguing the Tampa Bay area.

The announcements, one in Tampa and another in St. Petersburg, were part of Fried’s tour to promote the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Clean Water initiative.

The initiative seeks to update and strengthen the Office of Agriculture Policy’s water policies, which haven’t been revamped in more than a decade, Fried said.

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.