The Central Florida Water Initiative, the regional water supply organization that involves three water management districts and all or parts of five counties including Polk has recently been touting water conservation efforts in Polk County as way to avoid the expensive efforts to develop alternative water supplies. In Polk the alternative water supply efforts involve drilling deep into the lower-quality sections of the aquifer and treating the water similar to what occurs at a desalination plant to remove impurities. The plan is to pump the treated water into a pipeline system to be shared by participating cities and to inject the wastes from the process into an even deeper section of the aquifer.
The price tag for this and other projects, such as possible reservoir along the Peace River, will run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, Polk County and Winter Haven are involved in pilot projects to test the feasibility to use treated sewage that’s not already committed to other uses such as power plant cooling and lawn irrigation as a possible future source of drinking water.
That brings us back to water conservation.
The main target justifiably is landscape irrigation because that involves the bulk of residential water use.
So far, the main effort involves encouraging voluntary efforts by homeowners. Plant a more sustainable landscape. Have your irrigation system checked out by an expert. Make sure you have a rain sensor connected to your irrigation system. There is some thought of belatedly requiring higher standards for new construction.
Development trends may be taking care of some of the problem in a way. There are more and more subdivisions being proposed that include homes on 40-foot lots, which means they have hardly any yards at all.
Nevertheless, newer homes often come with irrigation systems. An analysis done a few years concluded that newer homes were more likely to be a source of higher water consumption than older homes simply because they had automatic irrigation systems.
That means that at some point utilities will have to be more active in monitoring their customers water use to spot signs of overuse or misuse of water.
I’ve driven regularly by homes where lawn sprinklers are running nearly daily even after ample rainfall.
It seems there is a way to develop a computer program to analyze water use by individual customers to spot problem areas that need either education or, failing that, enforcement.
Business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore and the sooner utilities educate their customers about that fact, the less demand there will be for expensive projects.