-. a~ .J ,
Sunday, July 5, 1981
Water shortages wave
-- ~, ."
By KEN WELLS "' Nagging water shortages are likely to water
air f writr become the rule, not the exception, be- and
April 15, the year 2000. Fires rage in the twmeen now and the year 2,000.'Increase se
bone-dry Everglades. A battle rages in the d act precipitate future: rcsu
courts and people, about five million of droughts n war shortages ev in in w
Sthema are outraged. Fl ,years of normal rainfall. When drough(s street
the, se outraged. w come, the impact will be magnified by .:
How could South Florida, where water fierce lmit
seems to be everywhere, be out of water? fierce competition for scarce supplies.
You can 11 shower yvan wash us g 1 to e 'Li
You can still shower, shave and wash ise The battle between the farm, which '1 -
the dishes (every other day), but all other wetes r, roughly two-the urbans of the region finances
water use sla banned by law. Lawns from atr a theurban coast, ch a Th
Palm Beach to Miami Beach are dead. Golf a. roughly per cent Of South Florida's t
drainage and water-supply system, sta..
ourses look like manicured deserts. ound to escalate. r-It s ttlemh is wate
Out in the coal-black muck that makes South Florida Water aagementt Dsther faces
up the farmlands rimming Lake Okeecho- the arbiter of the rion' water supply'
bee, the sugarcane growers are beside dreads. It is lil t rti with thesupply,t
dreads. ft is likely to end with the courts g .
themselves. Crops are stunted and Lake ding, once ad fo all wo rts, ricul
Okeechobee. -where farmerss always got fg..u, once and for all, who owns the. gro
their water during rainless summers, water that falls freely from the sky. only
doesn't have a drop to spare. Vegetable Outside of conservation, there opnl
growers drained what little there was dur- are no quick and easy or at least Sonu
ing the winter dry season. But it wasn't easy and affordable'- ways to run
nearly enough and the vegetable harvest 1 stretch or increase: the present ma
was a disaster. water supply. Even partial solu- Th
Farmers get together and march to court tions are seven to 10 years away; tract
in a desperate battle with urban residents and will cost hundreds of millions paml
for water rights. of dollars. Desalinization of sea-. r from
Those things may never happen but water is technically feasible at the (
they just might. This winter and next water rates 10 times what they are Cane
spring, In fact. South Florida, without the now. And conservation, at least se- Y
liberal intervention of Mother Nature, rious conservation, is not popular. About
faces the potential of its most devastating Despite those problems, the Flori
drought in history. At stake: a $1-billion- water-management district at land.
plus agricultural industry and the lifestyles least until the current drought aionl
of three million coastal residents. has treated water as a virtually un- "I
The 60 niches of rain that fall annually limited resource. It continues to says
Son the region should satisfy the demand. push for more taps on Lake Okee- bers
But after a century of often-reckless rec- chobee, the region's chief reserve, "So
lamation and four decades of phenomenal
growth South Florida, a low, flat place lor
long ruled by the drainage ditch and pump, OUth Fliw a D y rut
finds itself flooded with people, condomini-
ums and sugarcane fields and unable at T e fa m
times to quench all their water needs. e arms use most of t
"It's a hell of a mess," says Curry
Hutchinson, a former state water research- urban coast pays for mo
er who is researching a book on the state's
water woes. longer seems to be enou
i Out of .the mess, a few things already
are clear: .
t continues to allocate water-
permits as if severe droughts
ot happen. -
The district, however, has no
control over the single most
rtant factor in determining
r demand: growth. Regional
local governments make those
ions, often without regard to
mount of water available. The
t: a sort of backward process
which finite water resources are
ched over the seemingly un-
ed demands of growth. T
ait our growth' .
at's why those who under-4
I South Florida's complicated
r system and the pressures it
Share starting to worry.
think there is some way we've
o limit our growth, not just ag-
tural growth but urban
rth as well. South Florida can
sustals so much urban devel- i
nt and so much agriculture. '
where along the line, we'll'
out of our ability to carry that
e statement may sound like a:
from an environmentalist
phlet, but it isn't. It comes
I Dalton Yancey, director of
incey's fear is pragmatic.,
ut 20,000 people farm South
day's million acres of tillable a
.Three miUen people live
g the coast.
'here's not a war there now,"
Yancey, noting that the num-.
are not on agriculture's 4da
I don't want to start one."
he water. The
st of it. There no
gh to go around.
n M i
/ 7". .. -. f ". .
4 *~i q.r i ll) ii
WA /From AM T t
5% Boom-or-bust swamp wreckers i
~rthough. little of the current water-.
.' apply dilemma when they began,
draining the vast water-nurturing
verades'more than'a century
and thus ndering *
region's watel' '
Modern-day engineers and plan-
reeling from two wet hurri-
in 1947, worried, about too
uch. water nd began a' massive,
llon, publically financed
plumbing effort known as the Cen-,
,trai and South Florid,Flood Con-
r Witfhead in the Kissimmee
ver Valley, its heart in Lake
Okeehobee, its watery arms dan- ,
gling to both coasts, its toes dab-:
,bling in Everglades National Park,.
Sthe project authorized by Con-
gress, built by the Army Corps of
: Engineers and managed by their
water-management district -'
Rivals in scale the Tennessee Valley
Flood control, however, is anoth-
er way of saying drainage While.
Sthe project sought to correct some
of the past abuses, it was itself a,
Product of the ditch-and-drain
mentality that has prevailed in
SFlorida for so long and has caused
almost as many problems as it has
Side effects ; Rfl ;
In attempting to drain and pre-
vent hurricane flooding of the coast .,
Sand 750,000 acres of reclaimed
farmland south of Lake Okeecho- i
'bee, the project has sapped wet-
lands and lowered water levels
Throughout the region, thus com-
promising the system's ,natural
iwater-storage abilities. '
The lakes and great marhses of
the Kissimmee River chain were
lowered and Lake Okeechobee was
bottled up. The "river of grass" im-
bmediately south of the lake was
drained for farming the pres-
ent-day Everglades Agricultural
SArea breaking a vital renourish-
Ing link with the marshes to the:
,* Levees caged the remaining:
marshes, creating the conserva-
tion-area system. Water was im-
Spounded; it stacked up instead of
flowed: canals were widened,
Deepened, gated and fitted with
pumps. The grand result: a system
that in wet times sends millions of
gallons of water out to sea and in
-dry times sends millions of gallons
of Lake Okeechobee water to the
coast just to keep salt water out of
S"Mother Nature might not have
needed all those wetlands she origi-
nally created, but she. Was smart,
enough to realize she needed most
of them," Hutchinson says.
Jeanne Bellamy, a Coral Gables ,
banker serving her first term on
the governing board of the South
Florida Water Management Dis-
trict, tends to agree.
"Nearly everyone who has had a
-hand in the taming of the Ever--
glades to date has.acted from good
,motives," Bellamy says. "They
were always right to the extent of
their knowledge at the time and '*
..the constraints of public policy. No,
one really had the information to
Know what the consequences of.
Those acts would be, good or bad.
SAnd they didn't know the differ-
Sence between water [that] flowed,,.
however slowly, .and water [that
'There's no doubt if we were
doing the project over today, we'd
do it differently," says Jack Maloy, ,
Sthe district's director and the man'
who now presides over the massive ,'
Sflood-control project. -
flpods still a worry .
SStill, Maloy and other district of-
ficials say that despite water-sup-
ply concerns, they can't overlook
flood protection. About $80 billion
in Gold Coast real estate and a $1-
billion-a-year agricultural industry
depend on it.
The glittering coast and the
coal-black muck farms and pandys
tomato fields also depend upon
Lake Okeechobee, a sprawling,
shallow 740-square-mile, cistern,
for backup water supplies.
Three years ago, $76 million was
spent to raise the lake's levees. Na-
ture willing, the water level was
allowed to rise to 17.5 feet, two
feet higher than it had been :al-,
Slowed to rise tobefore. 1
projections, the new level should
put an average of 450,000 addition-
al acre-feet (a single acre-foot
equals 325,000 gallons) of water
into the lake each year. That
amount was thought sufficient vir-
tually to "droughtproof" the region
a through 1985 and take care of most i
water needs through the year 2000.
IAnd that was given, adrought.of
Despite those projections, the
lake barely has been able to meet,
demands during "~ this year's
*drought. It slumped to a 2 year
Ilow this month and May nOt fully
recover for a year or two, the man-
agers say. To expect the lake alone
to get the region through future
droughts without severe rationing
is unrealistic, water managers gen
rally concede. I
Coastal consumption, a 1978 dis.
trict report states, will rise to about
one billion gallons a day by the
turn of the century, 80 per cent
more than today. Agricultural use,,
Which already accounts for two out
of three gallons consumed, also is
expected to increase modestly.
Mesh those demands against this
Year's drought without new
sources of water and the results ar
SExcept for conservation, how-
ever, even modest solutions to
South Florida's water dilemma
"may be a decade away. All are
Costly, fraught with' controversy
Sand, in some cases, untried and un-
proven. Conservation is an excep-
pltion and so is desalinization, but
q both come with large political and
economic price tags.
The water-management district,
spurred by the present drought, has
stepped up efforts to get utilities,
counties and cities to upgrade and
regionalize water plants and devel-
op long-range copservatlon pro-
The benefits of regionalization
are apparent in Dade County,
where a single, autonomous water.
authority avoids wasteful localized
competition for ground water and
sends water to customers through
a large. efficient regional distribu-
tion system. But in Broward and
Palm Beach counties, where virtu-.
.; :.. ;-
Thie Miami Herald "
Sunday, July 5, 198L, r U U y
ally every city has its own water
,plant, regionalization is far from" 5
The water-management district, N
However, will be reluctant to lean
on taxpaying consumers to under-
take more than modest vopserva-,
tion without a crisis.
"We've got a lot of people out
there who remind us that we take a
lot of tax money from them to
manage the system and we ought,
'to take care of the water problem,"'
taloy says. .."
Desalinization is'a possible im-
mediate solution. Within six '
'months, reverse-osmosis plants
tapping the ocean's virtually unlim-
ited water 'could dot the entire -
urban coast. The catch: water bills.
of about $10 per 1,000 gallons,
roughly 10 times what they are
now. Florida Keys. consumers pay
those rates because they have no
other choice, but water users in
Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West
Palm Beach probably won't, at
last not yet.
If "There is no actual shortage of.
water in South Florida," says John
Wodraska, the district's assistant
director. "The question is: How
much are you willing to pay for''
Ultimately, however, the water
question boils down to growth.
S"The real issue," Nat Reed, a
erning-board member from Hobe
'Sound, recently told his colleagues,'
,"is how many people are e. going
to put on this peninsula."' *
SBut not everyone agrees that:
Growth is the ultimate issue or that t
water ought to.be.used as a limit-,
S"If I decide tomorrow to move to
Oregon, who's to say I. shan't? .
says Bellamy, a feisty woman-'
whose reporting for The Miami
Herald after the 1947 hurricane
greatly influenced the development
Sof-the region's, modern-day flood-
control project. "People are going
to come here, and we oughtto try
o ew outlook sought
.! Yet Bellamy is just as adamant
that accommodation of growth re-
quires a nurturing of the natural ,
SEverglades ecosystem and a shift in
4 water-management practices from
draining' wetlands I to'preserving
AIhem. .- ...-
"""Our whole policy of whether to,
get rid of water or to keep it has to
be to keep It;" she says.. i
SEnvironmentalists, who warn
that concern over water supplies,
must not overshadow concerns for"
the environment and water quality, 4
.share Bellamy's sentiments. though I
not her motives. "
S"The last thing in the world we
need in South Florida is more ca-
nals and drainage ditches," says ,
Art Marshall, a respected though ,
sometimes controversial Ever- -
glades ecologist who would tie A
water-supply solutions to a plan to
restore historical flows of waterto
the Everglades. .' -' "
In Marshall's mind, that means
dechannelizing rivers, the Kissim-
mee in particular, reflooding
marshes and, in some cases, top-.
.pling levees, at least those in the.
vast'water-conservation areas that
don't directly provide flood protect
f. The cumulative result, says Mar-
shall: The natural system would
keep its water longer well into
the dry season, when it is most;
needed. Water quality would im-
Sprove as the marshes, acting as nat-
ural' filters, cleansed impurities
from the gentle southward sheet
flow. 0 1
How much attention Marshall's
plan will get from water managers
is uncertain, however, though few
now quarrel with its premise. .(
SEven Maloy has given tacit sup-.
port 'to the concept, though he is'
likely tO become tenaciously cau-
tious about putting such a plan into
Effect. Maloy says his chief concern
I is that one man's restostion is an-
j other man's flood.
SIn the upper Kissimmee River
basin, for instance, houses, condo-
miniums and weekend camps al- '
ready crowd the flood plain. To
raise water levels in the lower Kis-
simmee Basin vastly might jeopard-'
ize the homes and people above i,
That, of course, is a replay of the
historical dilemma:. Drainage
brings people, who lobby for more
drainage, which in turns, bring
more people, I ;"': ,
More taps asked
Ironically, the district, perhaps
struggling with its old flood-con-
trol and reclamation heritage, con-
tinues to push for more drainage.
systems and more taps on Lake :.
Okeechobee for Hendry andSLl
Lucie counties, for instance.' '
S'The district admits'those plans i
are drawing fire' as'the public.'h
forced for the first time in 10 years '
to conserve water, becomes morel
aware of water-supply problems. '
"There are a lot of people
throughout all of. South Florida n
who already are worried about
Whether we should allow any more
straws to be put into Lake Okee-
chobee, because in the past year
we've drawn it dowan~.odraskuq
But he and other district officials
defend such projects partly on the
.ground, that they give the district '
"more flexibility" in managing
Supplies. In wet years, for instance, -
when summer' rains send Lake
Okeechobee and the marshy
water-conservation areas lapping
above safe flood-control levels, te
district Is forced to dump million
of gallons of fresh water to the soe
via its canal system, Wodrakal
S"If would be better if we could'
.send that water someplace where
people could use it," he adds.
S"The fallacy of that is that pew,|
pie don't need water when it's wqt .
they need it when it's dry," says'
,Hutchison, a former researcher.
(iforthe old Division of State Plant
ning and a frequent water-manage.'
Jeanae Bellamy: Beeks,ehange
in attitude.' .
'\ .. be, "** *" t *-b
Smeat-district critic. Once tapped able per-capit use. That will work 'r her the district ever get
into the lake. the new users can for urban consumption, but doe t into land-use planning could be,
claim the right to use water, a right address the queton of future ai- come one of the great Poltical r
equal' to that of even l ti culturalong- e al locations. At i sues of,the decade.
users, hesays. of ee. i. tie best, district officials say, such a "We have to know what the
In drought, that means more move Is years away. public and political sentiment is,'
competition for an already dimi. i Before that happens, the courts Grafton says. "Is It to allow ,
hed resource -a point the d may be asked to decide the current growth and enhance the water sup-
stict concedes. -- ~ unanswered question of water ply? Is that it? Or should we be
j Part f the dilemma is th atte policy now holds that saying we don't have the water- i,
district is expected to plan for the water belongs to the state but. i the system and we can't afford th
teriiuse basexpeted tupon landuse for that its citizens have a right to use growth? -
*water usebased upon land-use it ad te ?
'plans and population projections t As competition increases and tei "That's a difficult philosophical
about which it dutl can do state has to make tough decldsloe consideration that we can't supply
bouthan advilte. TN c, -I on who gets what, some landown. the answer to. That's a question
I.... t"han advie. ers may want a clearer answer, that political leaders should assess
piOi~ible.answer says Robert rafton the d and with much Input frpm hep -
SThe district's answer to that, At soute point, Graftonpsays, a At least one thing is certain. ac-
Sshort, of authority to tell people city will want to move a weifle ld cording to Grafton: "Y-o've got to
bhow. they can use their land, may to the west. Adjacent landowners find a way of enhancing the sup
be to Hmit future water allocations may object, saying the water being ply, or we've got to find a ways
Pby dmadng some rt taken belongs to them because it mitigating te need"- -
-r; M drains off their land. The fight will '
jiere are some! sugge st.ns
!}V1".',." *'.!; "*tV l 'W .[ 1 i
keep S.her aF21roid awet-
By KEN WELLS .. the Geological Survey currently Is undertaking simi-
iemId Sal Writerf A la r studies near Fort Myers to determine if such a.
W At a meeting of the South Florida Water Man- P project could function on a lge scale. One problem
agement District some year ago, a board member is obvious: Not theao t
Sfiured he had just solved part of South Florida's can e retrieve
~cI '.Tarp yr the conservation areas" he pro- Upland retention, dechannelization.'
claim ed. "
The idea, unorthodox as it was, was well intend- That's the "undraaiage" approach favored by en-,
Ved. The marshy impoundments in Dade, Broward, vironmentalists. Some say It would be particularly,
and Palm Beach counties hold a lot of water but lose effective in the lower Ktssimmee River BaEin north
a lot to evaporation. west of Lake Okeechobee. y putting at, weirs
Tarpaulins would solve the problem, true. But or bends back I the river, Vter levels, drawn
wr needs su to A i dl a ge.- se w d
And t the Dit rb l wht .t
odayP. toriag'the water that nature sends to Vhat tha woud mean to flood c
South Florida and using It more efficiently has
Sbecom'emore Imperative, water maaag.r So ,fRaising Lake Okeechobee y
; planners are considering such optioias. t 1m on levee proet, lw done
Urban backpumping f i three years ago 26 years after it was first pro-
posed. Now, when nature cooperates, the lake is al-
Each year, rain falls along the coast. Canals fill lowed to rise to 17.5 feet by the end of the summer
up. Floodgates creak open and the precious resource rainy season. Scientists estimate that ought to mean
S lost to the sea. an average annual additional storagee of about
f" The idea is to install giant pumps in strategic lo-. 400,000 acre-feet of water, enough to supply the
S cations, dig a few collector canals, capture the run- yearly demand of a city the size of Fort Lauderdale.
off and pump it over the levees of the Everglades So why not continue to raie t? Because two
into the marshy conservation areas. more feet might jeopardize the highly productive
District projections show backpumping could marshes at the north end of the lake. Nobody knows
provide the equivalent of 838 million gallon a day what more water will do to the lake's fishery or its
more than the region's current daily water de- water quality. Also, the cost of racing the lake's
mand. The cost of such a system is about $100 mil- 35-foot levees is probably as much a $100 million,
Slon, -. "The district has pretty much abandoned that as
'e aQuifer st .rag .."ia management alternative," sysJIon Wodraska.
Deepaquifer storage the district's assistaTirtor j
This Is an idea out of the 21st Century. Pump t' l on.-.-n .' .1 ,
*9 storm runoff deep into the ground. There It will
form a "bubble" held in place by hydrostatic pres- Sink wells down to the salty Floridan Aquifer,
Sr pure. Then open a valve and nature's own pressure draw the water out and demineralize it through re-
will push it out of the ground. verse osmosis Floridga water actually is cheaper to
The district, the US. Geological Survey and the prseare mi pure se water. The problem: Deminer-
Miaml-pade Water and Sewer Authori conducted a d a our muNam cots eight to 10 times more
aqu~d l stora td n tI enmat te e do 'a UsMa w rsneaffi e Aeayne Aquifer.
I Jj 1 4 4tlUll