The rainy season is over and the flow of the Peace River in Polk County is somewhere between a quarter and a fifth of the long-term average, according the latest data.
This is supposed to be a La Nina winter, which means higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-normal rainfall in coming months during what is usually the dry season in this part of Florida anyway.
Meanwhile, there is some tentative planning to build a reservoir somewhere around Fort Meade as part of the Polk County Water Cooperative’s plans for developing so-called alternative water supplies. That reservoir would involve seeking a permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to divert some of the river’s high flow and store it for future use.
How much would be available would depend on river conditions and the amount already reserved for Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority and for the needs of the river and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary downstream. Right now there isn’t enough flow at the Bartow gauge to make launching a canoe or kayak advisable in this section of the river.
Rainfall is the only source of water in the river since overpumping decades ago eliminated base artesian flow. This year there was not enough rain to sustain anything close to average flow. How often this will occur is, of course, unknown. However, the vagaries of rainfall raises questions about how sustainable this approach will prove to be.
This project, along with the plans that already farther along to tap deeper sections of the aquifer and to treat it with reverse osmosis to remove contaminants, deserves to be monitored by the public because they will bear the expense.