Peace River Water Permit Dispute Heats Up

Just weeks after the Polk County Water Cooperative challenged a permit request from the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority to double the amount of water it can withdraw from the river.

PRMWSA provides drinking water for customers in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The permit, which would be good for 50 years if approved, is intended to meet the area’s projected water demand.

PRMWSA’s response has been to claim, correctly, that they are downstream, which is where the river flows.

They further state that they only take a fixed percentage from the river and only during high flows. This is also correct.

However, they also disingenuously claim they are unsure why Polk is challenging their permit.

The permit challenge is a public record. They likely have a copy by now.

Polk’s position is that the permit request would reserve all of the water that the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s current regulations allow to be taken from the river. That allegedly boxes in Polk or any other users—Wauchula has also challenged the permit—who may want to tap the river in the future for their projected water demand.

Polk also alleges the legal notice Swiftmud issued regarding PRMWSA’s was misleadingly worded and not circulated as widely as it should have been to give anyone affected due notice.

These issues will be sorted out at some point.

The latest word is that the issue will end up before a state hearing officer. How soon any of this will happen is unknown at this point.

    Peace River south of Fort Meade during low flow


Meanwhile, there could be another permit challenge in the offing.

That involves the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative’s request for a permit to withdraw water from the Peace River near Fort Meade.

It is unclear how much water would be available from this section of the river. During droughts there is sometimes little or no water flowing in that part of the river.

Also, any permit would have to meet the same standards as the PRMWSA’s permit in that withdrawals would be restricted to 10 percent of high flow.

It would seem that if there is a cap on water withdrawals from the river, its unclear why it matters which section of the river is affected as long as it meets the other permit requirements.

Polk has no immediate plans to pursue this permit—it is not among the three projects currently approved by Swiftmud for funding—but it seems Polk officials simply wanted to get on record with its request in connection with the downstream utility’s request.