In other parts of the country, especially the arid West, it is hard to believe that Florida deals with significant water supply issues. Rain is abundant—upward of 50 inches a year on average in parts of the state—and freshwater lakes and rivers abound. However, the state relies heavily on its aquifers for supply and is subject to seasonal precipitation. Currently, Floridians are grappling with a prolonged drought.
In this issue of Municipal Water Leader magazine, we look at municipal water management in Florida. Two themes common to the stories and interviews throughout this issue are conservation and diversification of water supply portfolios. Florida is a groundwater-dependent state, and its water managers are investing in ways to make existing supplies go further and to create new ones.
In our cover interview, we talk with Miami–Dade Water and Sewer’s Lester Sola, who is overseeing a massive capital improvement plan to address the county’s growing population. As he puts it, “A lot of investment is required to have the kind of infrastructure needed for true growth.” Miami–Dade County has had to rely heavily on the Biscayne aquifer to meet its water needs, and Mr. Sola is leading his department in its efforts to ease use of the aquifer, recharge it, and tap into brackish water sources.
Regional supply solutions are common throughout the state. The Conserv II project has been serving central Florida’s residential and agricultural water needs for more than 30 years. The project distributes reclaimed water from wastewater reclamation facilities in Orange County and Orlando. For Orange County Utilities’ Todd Swingle, “Projects like Conserv II illustrate the results that we can achieve by innovation through effective partnership.”
Hillsborough County, which includes the city of Tampa, has been collaborating with other municipal and county entities as part of Tampa Bay Water. The county’s public utilities director, George Cassady, discusses regional efforts to create a master plan for water supplies. Patrick Lehman of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, which serves multiple counties south of Tampa, discusses regional efforts to create a water grid through aquifer storage and interconnecting infrastructure.
We also talk to Dr. Ann Shortelle, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, one of five state-created agencies that oversee water management and protection. Dr. Shortelle sheds light on northeastern Florida’s efforts to coordinate groundwater use among water entities and to sustain supplies for domestic and agricultural water users and the environment.
Finally, Murphy Parks and George Kelley of Freese and Nichols discuss some of the lessons learned about dam risk assessment after the erosion of the spillway at Oroville Dam. We also have an update on the litigation surrounding water supplies on the Apalachicola–Chattahoochee–Flint River basin. We hope this issue of Municipal Water Leader provides some insight into how Florida’s water managers work together to solve long-term supply issues.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com