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The simple answer is to conserve more water. Areas in Texas and California that are experiencing severe water shortages are using approximately 60 to 70 gallons per person per day. In Winter Haven, we are using an average of 115 gallons per person per day. Approximately half of the water we pump from the pure Floridan Aquifer is used for irrigation, which could use a lesser quality and less expensive source. Conserving water we use for irrigation and treating water as a precious resource are the first steps.
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Winter Haven Water pumps its water from 22 wells that pump water from the Floridan Aquifer, which is about 800 feet under the ground. These wells are spread around the community and pump approximately 9.4 million gallons per day to 9 water treatment plants before it is pumped to homes and businesses. The water we use from the Floridan Aquifer comes from rainfall just north of Winter Haven and needs little treatment because it is so pure.
The Floridan Aquifer, from which Winter Haven gets its water, is connected to lakes, rivers, and springs. Across Florida, overpumping of the aquifer has reduced stream flow, lake levels, and spring flow. Faced with significant population growth and the need to increase water supplies, sources such as surface water, Lower Floridian Aquifer water (which is saltier), treated wastewater (reuse water), and seawater are the sources of water that can produce the quantities needed. The problem is, that these sources of water are more expensive than traditional sources and will cost more to pump and treat.
The primary way that reuse water can supplement the City's water supply is by using reuse water for irrigation. The City currently has two wastewater treatment plants that treat approximately 5 million gallons per day. The City's Wastewater Treatment Plant Number 2 on the north side of town uses almost all of its 1 million gallons per day flow for beneficial purposes. This water irrigates Willowbrook Golf Course, subdivisions, and parks. Wastewater Treatment Plant Number 3 however, has just finished construction of improvements to make the 4 million gallons per day of flow available for irrigation. The City just signed a grant agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District to begin construction of a 23,000-foot transmission main that will service a new development and agriculture uses. This pipe will also connect to the transmission main extending from Wastewater Treatment Plant Number 2 to make more reuse water available to the north side of town. A draft 15-year master plan has been developed which also recommends extending a reuse pipeline around the east side of town to service golf courses and new development.
Construction of alternative water supply projects is expensive. The Polk Regional Water Cooperative (PRWC) was formed by communities in Polk County with the recognition that individual communities need to work together to fund and construct future projects. The PRWC has approved of 3 projects for further investigation: Southeast Polk Lower Floridan Wellfield; West Polk Lower Floridan Wellfield; and the Peace Creek Integrated Water Supply Plan. An agreement was signed in February 2017 to spend $23 million on data collection and preliminary design to determine which projects are the most feasible.
The two Lower Floridan Aquifer Projects are somewhat self-explanatory. They would pump water from a deeper, less pure aquifer and provide more extensive treatment before pumping the water up to 30 miles. The Peace Creek Integrated Water Supply Plan would look at local water management practices, including aquifer recharge, flooding, and water quality to determine if water can be managed more efficiently to restore lake levels and river flows as well as produce a future water supply. In this manner, communities will not only develop future water supplies but reduce costs for existing and future problems related to flooding and water quality. One of the key features of this project is called 'natural infrastructure', which uses nature to help do the work for people. As an example, instead of creating man-made reservoirs, wetlands could be restored as storage sites. This is a relatively new concept, but one that has been adopted by the City of Winter Haven through the Sustainable Water Resource Management Plan.
No doubt that the cost of providing water, treating wastewater, managing storm water, and handling garbage will go up in the future. The higher cost of doing business will have to be passed along to the customers, but the community has considerable control over how fast this happens. No doubt that alternative water supplies will be more expensive, but the better we are at conserving water, the longer we postpone more costly projects. The better we are about using electronic billing and payments, the more time and money it saves staff. The better we are about recycling, the lower the cost of garbage disposal. Winter Haven is working towards being a sustainable community, and in the long term, this will save residents money.
Winter Haven obtains water from the Floridan Aquifer, which is a very pure source of water. It takes little treatment and maintenance to pump the water from the ground and send it to homes and businesses. Once the water goes down a toilet or drain, it begins its journey to the wastewater treatment plan. On its way to the treatment plant, the water might have to travel up to 6 miles and go through 3-4 lift stations to reach one of two wastewater treatment plants. Once it reaches the plant, it goes through a somewhat complex process to take raw sewage water and turn it into almost drinkable reuse water. The cost of maintaining this system is much more than the cost of maintaining the drinking water system.
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