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August 14, 2007

The Southwest Florida Water Management District has declared a water shortage emergency for the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s reservoir and two Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wellfields to help protect the drinking water supply for over 250,000 residents.

Executive order SWF 07-045 signed Monday by Richard Owen, deputy executive director of the District’s Division of Resource Regulation, will allow the authority to temporarily increase withdrawals from the Peace River to store in the reservoir and ASR wellfields.

The authority’s service area includes North Port as well as Charlotte, DeSoto, Sarasota and Manatee counties (Manatee County currently does not receive water from the authority.) The Peace River is the authority’s primary source to meet the drinking water needs of its customers and there are no other readily available alternative sources of water to meet demands. During periods of high river flows, the authority typically stores untreated water in its reservoir and stores treated water in its two ASR wellfields for later use during the dry season or whenever river withdrawals are not sufficient to meet drinking water demands.

When full, the authority’s reservoir stores approximately 625 million gallons of water. However, as of August 5, the reservoir only had 304 million gallons of water in storage. Meanwhile, the authority’s two ASR wellfields, which together store approximately 7.3 billion gallons, have essentially no water in storage.

The authority has estimated that, even if the Peace River’s flow were to return to normal for the remainder of the rainy season, the authority’s normal withdrawal schedule would result in it having only 1.2 billion gallons of water in storage by the end of the rainy season. Compared to a total storage capacity of more than 7.9 billion gallons, this is an extremely low water supply to begin the dry season.

Earlier this year, the authority’s board of directors passed a resolution declaring a temporary water supply emergency due to drought conditions. This resolution called for its member governments to enhance local water conservation education efforts, maintain and enforce local water restrictions, and promote rebates and other local water conservation projects.

The authority has now requested the District take emergency water shortage action, which will temporarily modify its existing water use permit. The modification will increase the maximum amount of water withdrawn from the Peace River from 10 percent of the average daily flow, as read at the Arcadia Station for the previous day, to 12 percent of the combined average daily flow as measured at the Arcadia Station, Horse Creek gauge and Joshua Creek gauge. However, the existing permit condition that forbids withdrawals when the average daily flow at Arcadia is less than 130 cubic feet per second remains in place.

Another condition of the emergency order requires the authority’s member governments to aggressively enforce the District’s one-day-a-week watering restrictions as well as any stricter local provisions.

The order is scheduled to expire on Aug. 29, 2007 unless it is rescinded or extended by District’s Governing Board or executive director.

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