Florida: More water woes coming

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Thursday, March 22, 2001 Publication: Daily Citizen

More water woes coming


Citizen Staff Writer

Water shortages throughout South Florida are likely to hit the Keys hard in the next month.

Rhonda Haag, Keys coordinator for the South Florida Water Management District, warned county commissioners and Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority officials Wednesday of coming problems.

Lake Okeechobee is expected to fall below 10 feet by April 1, causing gravity-flow systems to stop pumping water into Florida City well fields that feed water to the Keys. The backup canal system in the Everglades, which also recharges the well fields, could be too low to use by mid-April, Haag said.

"That is when we really expect the level in our Biscayne aquifer, essentially the Florida City well fields, to drop rapidly because there will be no sources for recharge," Haag said.

Keys water managers are talking about emergency measures, such as lower water pressure, rate hikes for large water users and infusions from the desalination plant, which would be costly.

Drilling a well into the Floridan aquifer, a deeper water source that is brackish, is an option. It would be mixed with Biscayne aquifer water, but would lower the quality of Keys water supplies.

In the coming days, aqueduct authority board members will be looking at all those contingency measures, as they were explained Wednesday by consultant Tim Sharp, a senior hydrologist with CH2MHill.

Meanwhile, Keys residents and business owners are facing increased water-use restrictions beginning Wednesday, as the water-management district reduces lawn watering and car washing to one day a week.

"Monroe County users have to cut down on indoor water use," Haag said.

Restrictions target irrigation, farming, golf course and nurseries. But Monroe County doesn't have as much use by those groups.

So enforcement is not as big an issue in the Keys, Haag said. No Keys residents or businesses have been fined for water-use violations.

Haag said a tough campaign aimed at tourists, hotels and businesses needs to be enacted.

The aqueduct authority has asked for voluntary conservation by resorts and restaurants, but will likely step up efforts. Signs aimed at educating tourists were suggested Wednesday.



-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 22, 2001

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