Friday, January 17,1997
wars can end if
we want them to
By Peter G. Hubbell
Special to Hemando Today
We can end the water wars for a cost of sqme-
where between $3 and $4 per month on youra-
The next battle you read about likely will'be
over how the water should be developed. The
lines are being drawn fairly simply; the
Southwest Florida Water Management District
(Swiftmud) supports the development of alterna-
tive, non-traditional water sources while others
are advocating a more traditional approach.
The fact is, it will take a little bit of everything
to make it work.
One thing is certain: Every individual living in
west central Florida has a stake in the outcome.
For years the governing board of Swiftmud has
maintained that an informed and engaged public
will ultimately ensure the protection of our water
resources. This is more true now than ever before.
Florida has changed so much and with that
change has come tremendous pressure on all of
our resources especially water. This pressure
has created social, economic and political prob-
lems. Communities have been split, too much
money has been allocated to litigation, and in
some places the environmental damage has been
devastating, perhaps unrecoverable.
There is some good news. Assessments have
been completed which give us a detailed account-
ing of the hydrogeology of most of the 16 counties
served by Swiftmud.
Emergency Management Teams are working
closely to ensure the best possible protection dur-
ing a storm, and conservation is a value em-
braced by citizens, utilities and businesses
throughout the district.
In the past several years the district has em-
barked on a program of investment in alternative
(non-traditional) water sources. These sources
will provide a safe, sustainable, environmentally
friendly and drought-proof water supply for dis-
The sources are also cost-effective particu-
larly when you consider the political, economic
and environmental costs of some traditional wa-
ter sources. Included in the New Water Source
Initiative are projects for rehydrating wetlands
and water wellfields, recycling water, aquifer
storage, and recovery and desalination.
_- i ** *' "
'T'he district has conauctea feasibility studies
and other research which demonstrates that the
various alternative sources are as good or better
quality than most of our existing water supply.
Take time to learn more about these sources.
They are a substantial investment in the future
of west central Florida.'
Despite our achievements in regulation, data
acquisition and innovation, water problems are
far from solved. Demand for water is expected to
increase by nearly 50 percent in the next 25 years
and, as competition for the limited resource be-
comes more fierce, so will the fights to develop it.
And we may have less time than we think.
Right now, the district is engaged in setting
minimum flows and levels on major rivers and
lakes. These minimum levels are the lowest, pos-
sible point a waterbody can be before environ-
mental damage occurs. Setting minimum flows is
a statutory requirement for all of the water man-
agement districts in Florida, and we're proud to
say we are leading the state in accomplishing this
task. Now, however, we have been ordered to set
the levels on specific waterbodies by October 1.
The waterbodies Lower Hillsborough River,
Northern Tampa Bay Floridian aquifer and lakes
Barbara, Big Fish, Cypress, Dosson, Ellen, Helen,
Little Moon, Sapphire and Sunshine include
some water supply sources.
While we are only now developing the method
for setting the levels, we do know that in some ar-
eas too much water has been taken from the en-
vironment. To ensure enough water for environ-
mental protection, the district may have to cut
some of those water withdrawals. That means
new water to serve those needs will have to come
from elsewhere including alternative water
sources. The district has a 10-year schedule for ,
setting the balance of the minimum flows and '
But there are still other challenges.
The key is that as a community we must face
these challenges together. There is much reason
for us to do so. A cooperative investment in future
water supplies lowers the total cost for everyone.
Cooperation ensures that "donor communities,
those that have water, will not have to fear those
that do not have but want the water. Cooperation
means that potential investors in the area will
not question the availability of a safe, sustain-
able, affordable water supply while still guaran-
teeing a quality of life. It makes a good business
An obvious question is: What will all this cost
us? The answer is deceptively simple. Even in our
most populated areas, an additional $3 to $4 per
month on a water bill will cover the costs of the
badly needed new water supplies. It is important
to remember that these new water supplies are
not just for some future need, but because we
need to cut back on existing sources to reverse
the environmental damage.
The only certain thing about the future of wa-
ter supply in west central Florida is that we will
need more of it. The sooner we come to a collec-
tive resolution to our shared challenges, the soon-
er we can move on to other problems that do not
have a resolution in sight. It makes sense to do
(Hubbell is executive director of Swiftmud.)