Divvying up Florida’s Water

Meetings aim to more equitably manage the Floridan Aquifer.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, three state water-management agencies for Central Florida, and several water utilities held several meetings centered around the Floridan Aquifer. The Floridan Aquifer reportedly supplies 90% of the state’s drinking water.

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, these meetings were held discreetly, causing some attendees to question whether they were violating open-meeting laws. The article reports that the meetings were held as part of the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI). Meeting minutes/notes are available for recent public meetings, but these minutes do not reference a discussion of the Floridan Aquifer.

The region finds itself in a precarious situation with regards to water resources. The three water management districts in the area, St. John’s River, South Florida and Southwest Florida instituted a ban, which would prohibit  additional use of water from the aquifer after 2013. This would require utilities to obtain water from other resources, such river water or via desalination. Only one utility has moved in this direction. Seminole County built a plant to use St. John’s River water.

Depletion isn’t the only threat to the aquifer. Water samples gathered  from wells in downtown Orlando found high concentrations of volatile organic compounds in a U.S. Geological Survey study conducted in 1998. The source of the pollution was attributed to a nearby coal-gasification plant. More than two-decades later, the study is nearly complete. The site was designated a “Superfund alternative”, which identified it as hazardous waste site, but didn’t qualify it for federal funding for remediation. In 1994, 4 to 6 million cubic feet of toxic waste entered the aquifer when a huge sinkhole developed in a gypsum stack.