Water-Related News

Governing Board Declares Water Reuse Week May 14-20

Orlando, FL - The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board passed a resolution Thursday declaring May 14-20, 2017 as Water Reuse Week in Florida. The resolution urges local governments, utilities and businesses to implement water reuse programs to help protect future water supply of 8.1 million South Florida residents.

"The water reuse operation as a crucial program is no more evident than right now as South Florida is in the grip of a severe drought," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe. "As a responsible Governing Board, it is our duty to do everything in our power to encourage utilities and citizens to reuse as much water as possible. Every gallon reused is a step in the right direction."

Mangrove trimming May 15-25 at Burnt Store Isles

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Beginning Monday, May 15th, 2017 through May 25th, 2017 (weather and equipment operation permitting), the City of Punta Gorda contractor, Ecosystem Technologies, Inc. will be trimming the mangroves along the perimeter canal in the Burnt Store Isles subdivision. Boaters should use caution in this area.

For additional information on this project, please contact Canal Maintenance Supervisor, Catherine Miller, Punta Gorda Public Works Department at (941) 575-5071 between the business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday.

Rip-rap installation at Burnt Store Isles lock area

PUNTA GORDA – Beginning Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 through May 26th, 2017 (weather and equipment operation permitting), the City of Punta Gorda contractor, Marine Contracting Group will be installing rip-rap next to the Lock in the Burnt Store Isles subdivision. Boaters should use caution in this area and should expect delays when passing through the Lock.

For additional information on this project, please contact Canal Maintenance Supervisor, Catherine Miller, Punta Gorda Public Works Department at (941) 575-5071 between the business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:0 p.m., Monday thru Friday.

Cape Coral reverse osmosis plant set for $1 million in repairs

Four ‘busway’ components need to be replaced

Exposure to the sun may have contributed to a major component failure at the North Reverse Osmosis water plant, resulting in the need to replace all four "busways" at a cost of nearly $1 million.

The tally is nearly $200,000 less than it could have been and the expenditure is needed to prevent a major plant emergency similar to one experienced at the city facility in 2014.

Cape Coral City Council on Monday awarded the work to Cogburn Brothers of Jacksonville, the lowest and only responsive responsible bidder, officials said.

The consent agenda resolution states the company will provide construction services for modifications to the power distribution system at the plant for $898,500 plus a 10 percent contingency of $89,850 for a total of $988,350.

A small portion will be reimbursed through a warranty. The rest of the money will come from the city's Water and Sewer Fund.

At Monday's meeting, Public Utilities Director Jeff Pearson said the busway's power run for the plant failed and needs to be replaced before complete failure.

Bill would expedite southern reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast will file a bill Thursday to expedite Everglades restoration projects, including a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, he said in a news release Tuesday. His Everglades FIRST Act — it stands for Flow Increases Rely on Storage and Treatment — directs the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite work on reports needed for projects to increase water storage around Lake O and minimize discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, and the harmful algal blooms they cause. "The federal government needs to step up and do its part to get this project done as quickly as possible,” the Palm City Republican said, anticipating Gov. Rick Scott's signature on a bill the Florida Legislature approved last week to fund the reservoir. The state agreed to pony up $800 million for a 78.2 billion gallon reservoir on land called the A-2 parcel, where the Corps currently plans to build a much smaller water-cleaning project. So it's up to the Corps to change its plans — and match the state's $800 million for a bigger, deeper reservoir.

Pollution notice bill inspired by sinkhole passes Legislature

A bill requiring industry and government to notify the public quickly of any pollution problems has passed both houses of the Legislature and is headed for Gov. Rick Scott. Scott, who called for the change in the law, will definitely sign it.

The bill, SB 532, was inpsired by the sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant and St. Petersburg's sewage disaster.

The sinkhole, in particular, drove Scott's desire for the bill. When it opened up in August 2016 and swallowed 215 million gallons of contaminated water, dumping it into the aquifer, neither Mosaic nor Scott's own Department of Environmental Proteciton told the public about it for three weeks. The reason? State law did not require them to do so unless the pollution was detected outside the polluter's property boundaries. Mosaic (but not the DEP) later apologized for the delay.

The delay in St. Petersburg officials reporting the tens of millions of gallons of sewage that the city's aging wastewater system released into Tampa Bay after Hurricane Hermine bothered Scott as well.

Cape Coral water ban averages 100-plus violations a day

Since Jan. 1, the city has issued 8,062 violations, the majority, 7,302, of them first violations, Barron said. The first violation is a warning. A second violation carries a $100 fine; and a third violation carries a $200 fine. A fourth violation, and any subsequent violations, carries a $400 fine, and the city can disconnect them from the system.

One community has pressed the far limits of Cape Coral's water restrictions, racking up four violations costing it a total of $700 to keep their lawns lush and green.

Public Affairs Manager Connie Barron said the Coral Lakes community, which has its own irrigation system, is the violator. Rich Carr, code compliance manager, said workers observed the violations in the common areas of the property outside the gate at 1500 Coral Lakes Blvd., near Del Prado. The property includes more than 700 homes spread over 370 acres, its website indicates.

Another 868 city residents have tested the restrictions, receiving from a warning to a third violation notice. For private homeowners, the city can disconnect them from the municipal irrigation system upon their fourth violation.

"We're seeing a consistent number of violations," Carr said. "A lot of firsts, not a lot of seconds and thirds. Most people when they get the warning, they do comply."

Florida drinking water ranks among nation’s worst, study finds

7.5 million: The number of people in Florida served by water treatment plants with safe water violations

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article148112799.html#storylink=cpyMore Floridians are exposed to unsafe drinking water than just about anywhere in the country, according to a new study of violations.

The state ranked second in the number of people impacted by violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act based on the most recent data available from 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council said. Nationally, 77 million people were exposed to unsafe water, with violations including high levels or toxic arsenic, lead and other chemicals, as well as failure to test or report contamination.

The study, a follow-up to an examination of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., comes as the Trump administration considers drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces the law.

“The problem is two-fold: there’s no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we’re living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure,” Erik Olson, NRDC’s health program director, said in a statement. “We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country.”

To compile the data, the nonprofit looked at the most recent, comprehensive data and ranked states based on the number of people exposed to unsafe water. That could skew findings to heavily populated states, but even as a percentage, Florida ranked in the top ten, said NRDC spokesman Alex Frank.

Cape Coral begins pumping water from reservoir to freshwater canal system

The City of Cape Coral has launched the test run to pump water from the reservoir property at Southwest Aggregates in Punta Gorda into the freshwater canal system in Cape Coral.

The city will pump 8.5 MGD for the next 48 hours and, if the initial test run is successful, Cape Coral will be permitted to pump up to 17 MGD from the reservoir by Sunday. The current test run is scheduled for 90 days.

"This reservoir project could provide the City of Cape Coral with another freshwater source to supplement the irrigation supply for our community," said City Manager John Szerlag in a prepared statement. "We are extremely pleased with how the various agencies came together to secure the necessary permits required to move this project forward in such a short timeframe."

The city worked with the South Florida Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Department of Transportation to bring the project online. The city also negotiated an agreement with the owners of Southwest Aggregates, and the agreement is on the Council agenda for approval on Monday, May 1. The agreement includes reimbursement to the owner for the costs of the pumping equipment being used in the testing phase, $140,000.

Southwest Florida so dry that canals, wells, pumps, lawn watering are concerns

As Southwest Florida is gripped by a particularly dry season and residents are urged to conserve water, some municipalities are more affected by the relatively sparse rainfall and low water levels than others, officials say.

As of Friday, the Southwest coast area of the South Florida Water Management District — which includes large parts of Collier and Lee County — received only 5.46 inches of rain, said Randy Smith, a district spokesman. That's only 45 percent of what the area usually would receive during an average dry season, which runs from Nov. 1 through May 31, he said.

"It got less than half the rain that you normally would have," Smith said.

To make matters worse, Southwest Florida's dry spell has parched the area's woods, leaving wildfires with plenty of sun-baked brush to fuel their rage. Two large blazes in Collier torched thousands of acres in March and April and razed eight homes. A 400-acre fire in Lehigh Acres last week also destroyed or damaged structures.

‘Big win’: Florida beaches score $50 million in state budget

TALLAHASSEE – Florida's beaches would receive $50 million next year for renourishment projects in the state budget being negotiated by legislative leaders, but a bill to overhaul the way the state manages its coasts faces an uncertain future.

"It's a big win to get $50 million in the budget for beaches, big win," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who made beach funding a top priority this legislative session. Lawmakers often have provided less than the $30 million required in state law each year.

Latvala’s bill to reform the state’s beach management system overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Thursday but has stalled in the House.

The beach funding boost and Senate action on Latvala’s bill come on the heels of the Naples Daily News' four-day "Shrinking Shores" series that showed how state leaders have not delivered for Florida’s beaches, even though they bring in billions of dollars of tourist-related state sales tax revenues.

The House still could take up the beach policy bill sent over from the Senate in these final days of the legislative session, and parts of it could be written into the state’s budget, beach advocates said.

Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association President Debbie Flack celebrated the $50 million included in the budget Thursday.

“If nothing else happens, that’s a major hurdle,” Flack said.

SWFWMD declares Phase I Water Shortage throughout 16-county region

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (District) Governing Board voted today to declare a Phase I Water Shortage for all 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries. Included in the order are Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties.

The primary purpose for a Phase I water shortage is to alert the public that watering restrictions could be forthcoming. The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District.

A Phase I water shortage order does not change allowable watering schedules, however it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use.

The District considers both natural water resource conditions and the viability of public supply when deciding to declare a water shortage order – that means, restricting the amount of water the public can use. For the past 20 years, the District has worked diligently with our partners to develop alternative water supplies. Even though we are experiencing drought conditions, there is adequate water supply available to the public.

Florida’s dry season runs October through May and April is historically one of the driest months of the year. The District encourages water conservation year-round, and offers many tips to reduce water use and additional information on our website WaterMatters.org/conservation.

$75 million of ‘Star Trek’ technology to transform Lee drinking water

The Green Meadows Water Treatment Plant, with Star Trek-like technology, will go online in August, 2018. It will provide water for 20,000 Lee County homes.

Watching Star Trek growing up in Fort Myers, Mikes Maillakakis gravitated not to Captain Kirk nor Mr. Spock.

“Captain Kirk was doing this, and Mr. Spock was doing that, but whenever there was a jam, who did they call? Scotty,” Maillakakis said.

Like the Star Trek character, Maillakakis became an engineer.

Just as Captain Kirk often summoned Scotty, Lee County has called upon Maillakakis to help in a role that will impact about 20,000 Lee County households – about 50,000 people – and how they receive their drinking water beginning August 2018.

New primer to “living shorelines” published

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A synthesis of recent thinking and results from practitioners and researchers of Living Shorelines just hit the stands. “Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-Based Coastal Protection,” details many aspects of the shoreline stabilization approach, and specifically includes: (1) background: history and evolution; (2) management, policy, and design; (3) synthesis of Living Shoreline science: physical and biological aspects; and (4) summary and future guidance. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science participated in the project.

Carolyn Currin, Jenny Davis, and Amit Malhotra contributed a chapter entitled "Response of Salt Marshes to Wave Energy Provides Guidance for Successful Living Shoreline Implementation". The multi-faceted chapter provides information pertaining to the: energetic determinants of marsh habitat distribution; relationship between shoreline wave energy and marsh erosion rates; and the ability of fringing marshes to attenuate waves and trap sediments. The chapter also describes the results of a case study of natural and stabilized fringing salt marsh from central North Carolina and combines these results with those from the literature review to provide guidance on the physical settings in which fringing marsh and hybrid living shorelines can be considered.

Coastal ecosystem functions have diminished as estuarine and coastal shorelines have been managed mostly to support human infrastructure and economic benefits. Coastal management has evolved to include the use of nature-based shoreline erosion control approaches. Living Shorelines are intended to restore natural shoreline functions in estuarine, marine, and aquatic systems.

Lee County Utilities customers may notice change in water

Lee County Utilities will be temporarily converting its disinfectant process from chloramines to free chlorine residual from May 1-29.

It is a routine measure common among water utilities that use chloramines as a primary disinfectant.

Anyone who uses a kidney dialysis machine at home should contact his or her equipment supplier so the proper filtering equipment can be installed in advance.

Tropical fish or aquatic animal owners should contact a local tropical fish store for appropriate pretreatment of water before adding water to tanks.

Customers may notice a temporary change in the taste, odor and color of the water, which is not harmful.

It is a routine, precautionary measure to ensure Lee County Utilities customers of clean, safe potable water.

Customers with questions can call 239-533-8845 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Charlotte County Utilities wins regional best-tasting drinking water contest

Charlotte County Utilities Department won the annual Best Tasting Drinking Water Contest in Region X held by the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association. The contest was held during a FSAWWA luncheon at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Sarasota Service Center earlier this month. Charlotte County’s water sample won the best tasting out of the nine utilities that entered the contest.

Region X represents drinking water utilities in a five-county region: Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota. Charlotte County will compete for the statewide tasting competition later in April, and potentially the national competition in June if it receives Florida’s top honor.

All Region X water utilities were invited to submit a gallon sample of their drinking water to be tested by a panel of five impartial judges. Each utility’s sample was collected from their distribution system no more than 24 hours prior to the test. The annual competition is held throughout the country and is intended to educate consumers about water-related issues and raise awareness about water conservation.

Charlotte County purchases 95 percent of its water supply from the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, which uses the Peace River as its source of supply. The Charlotte County public drinking water system distributes this potable water to more than 55,000 customers and maintains a large system of approximately 1,400 miles of water main lines, four booster stations and 4,500 fire hydrants.

Florida Senate unanimously supports pollution notification rules change

The Florida Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to inform the public within 24 hours after a spill occurs.

Senators passed SB 532 on its third and final reading.

Sponsored by Manatee County Republican Bill Galvano, the bill was filed in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for new public notification rules and legislation to ensure the public is kept informed of incidents of pollution that may cause a threat to public health and Florida’s air and water resources. The push came after a sewage spill last fall in St. Petersburg and Mosaic’s sinkhole in Mulberry that sent toxins in the drinking water supply.

The DEP filed suit, issuing an emergency rule requiring those responsible to notify the public within 24 hours. After business groups had challenged the rule, an administrative law judge rejected the rule, saying the department exceeded its rule-making authority.

SB 532 also requires DEP to develop and publish a list of substances that “pose a substantial risk to public health, safety or welfare.” If any company fails to notify the Department of an incident involving one of the published substances, it could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day.

“People have a right to know, and it’s at the heart of public safety,” Galvano said.

All eyes are now focused on the legislation is being carried in the House (HB 1065) by Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters. If it passes there, it goes to Scott’s desk.

SFWMD issues water shortage warning to 8.1 million Florida residents

WEST PALM BEACH – Falling water levels and extremely dry conditions that are expected to linger led the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board to issue today a water shortage warning to all 8.1 million residents in the agency's 16 counties.

"The purpose of this warning is to urge South Florida families to voluntarily conserve more water," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe. "This effort will help your water supply last through the remainder of the dry season."

The most beneficial conservation practice is compliance with the District's year-round landscape irrigation conservation measures and any local landscape irrigation ordinance. These rules can be found at www.sfwmd.gov/mywateringdays. If voluntary water conservation efforts prove insufficient, the Governing Board may consider further mandatory water use restrictions to equitably distribute the remaining water supplies and prevent serious harm to water resources.

On Tuesday, the Governing Board issued a temporary ban on all open fires and campfires on District lands. The ban includes lands open for recreational purposes in Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk counties. Additionally, SFWMD's prohibitions could be expanded to other locations throughout the District if drought conditions continue.

The wet season typically begins June 1.

Cape Coral issues burn ban and “Stage I Water Shortage” with mandatory one-day watering

City Manager John Szerlag has issued a burn ban for Cape Coral and has declared a Notice of Emergency Stage I Water Shortage. The burn ban is effective immediately, while the one-day mandatory watering restrictions will go into effect Friday, April 21. The emergency water shortage declaration is the next stage of the City's Emergency Water Conservation Plan authorized per Chapter 19-91 of the City of Cape Coral Code of Ordinances and requires mandatory one-day watering for all Cape Coral residents and businesses.

"The combination of no rain and only minimal reduction in irrigation usage by our residents and businesses has lowered the water in our freshwater canal system to critical levels," said Szerlag. "We cannot risk the public safety of our citizens who rely on fire protection from hundreds of fire hydrants connected to the irrigation supply. At the same, we also must take steps to limit potential fire risk by issuing the burn ban."

The burn ban is effective immediately and prohibits most open burning with the exception of barbecue grills. With the Stage I Water Shortage, the city is providing residents one week to adjust their timers and set their sprinklers to their permitted day and time. Beginning Friday, April 21, the city will begin enforcing the one-day watering schedule. First violations are a warning; second violations will be $100 fines; third violations are $200 fines; and, fourth violations will be $400 fines plus disconnection from the irrigation system. Residents are reminded that hand watering is allowed at any time.

Warning from SWFWMD: Additional water restrictions are possible

A water shortage order could be in the future for 16 Florida counties due to the ongoing drought.

The governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, will discuss a vote on a staff-recommended phase 1 water shortage order for their 16 counties, including Manatee and Sarasota.

The order won’t be final until the board votes to approve it at their next meeting on April 25 in Haines City.

If approved, this phase won’t change current watering conservation schedules. It only would be a first step to warn residents that stricter water restrictions could be coming, said Swiftmud public information officer Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

The order will require more frequent and detailed reporting to Swiftmud on the utilities’ ends, said Manatee County water division manager Mark Simpson. The county will also have to review its enforcement policies.

Since April 2017 was proclaimed Water Conservation Month by the board of county commissioners, Simpson said residents will get notifications about ways to conserve water. But even with the potential of a water shortage order, he said Manatee County’s water supply is still safe, with current levels at Lake Manatee Reservoir able to fuel water needs through September.

Residents should be mindful of year-long county water restrictions set Swiftmud and try to find ways to save water where they can.

As the drought is expected to continue until rains begin in June, the prevalence of wildfires across the state is on the rise. According to the Florida Forest Service’s fire danger index, Manatee County continues to have a very high fire risk. The Myakka River District is still restricting burns to citrus piles only.

New Mote app analyzes microscopic red tide data

SARASOTA — The future of red tide data collection is here — in cellphone application form.

Scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System have teamed up to create a NASA-funded cellphone microscope app, the “HABscope,” that can, within minutes, analyze the concentration of cells of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in any given water sample extracted from the shore.

Volunteers place drops of the water sample from a pipette onto a microscope slide and take a video of the sample. Once they file the video of the sample, the app calculates the cells per liter, which in turn determines the level of red tide in the water. The app has an algorithm that can identify Karenia brevis based on its swimming pattern.

Sarasota County considers Manasota Key beach renourishment

VENICE — The beach ball is in Sarasota County’s court.

If it wants to partner with Charlotte County to extend a planned beach renourishment project on Manasota Key north of the county line, Sarasota leaders must act relatively quickly to sign on to the joint coastal permitting process that is about to begin.

That move would almost certainly save millions of dollars for both counties’ projects, and help speed much-needed renourishment to some severely eroded areas on the Sarasota County side of the key.

But Sarasota County is months behind Charlotte’s study of its beach project, as Sarasota staff tries to determine if there is enough support to pursue and help fund extending the nourishment among the swath of of homes nearest the county line on the Sarasota side.

Sarasota County commissioners hope to act decisively next week on whether to join the permitting process, they indicated at a joint meeting of the two local governments Wednesday.

Cape Coral makes deal with mine to supplement water

CAPE CORAL – The city of Cape Coral is now under a mandatory once-a-week watering schedule.

The city manager declared an emergency water shortage as the area finishes out another week with no significant rainfall.

Cape Coral residents have been watching the water levels drop around their homes for months.

"You can see where that water line is that dark line that's for the water usually is," said Ron McKay.

McKay understands why the city is moving to a once-a-week watering schedule.

"We'll just water on Sunday nights," he said.

City officials say Cape Coral residents can use up to 40-million gallons of irrigation water a day.

"We're on track to this being the worst drought in recent memory," said Cape Coral Utilities Director Jeff Pearson.

On top of a new watering schedule, the city is also doing an emergency water supply test on a project years in the making.

"We're going to be supplementing our canals with 17 million gallons a day of fresh water from a reservoir along US-41 north of Cape Coral," Pearson said.