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Florida’s residents and businesses use 15 Billions of water per day. In Lee County the population of just over 500 thousand people use 131 million gallons per day or just over 70 gallons per person. Florida cannot sustain that kind of water use especially with a growing population at 20 million people now and growing . The state estimates it will need to supply another 2 Billion gallons of water to Florida’s residents in the next 20 years. Florida gets most of it’s water from underground aquifers which are filled with water from the 54 inches of rain it gets each year. The problem is that we are pumping it out of the ground faster than mother nature is replenishing it with our rainfall.
40 % of Florida’s water use goes to agricultural interests to irrigate crops and farmland. 37 % is used by homes for their water use. About half of the water that homeowners use is spent watering their lawns. Florida needs to come up with a new strategy to supply the fresh water needs of all Floridians in the future. State water managers, the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency has been on an ambitious program over the past twenty years to restore the wetlands that use to cover South Florida before we started the dredging, building of canals and urbanization that swept Florida during the 20th century.
One project that is in the works to store water coming from Lake Okeechobee and purify it before it is released down the Caloosahatchee River is a water basin called C-43. C-43 will hold billions of gallons of water tainted with phosphorous and nitrogen from the farms, lawns and mining operations in central and northern Florida. The water will be diverted to the water basin and the water will be filtered by plants and others methods before it is released down river. The Kissimmee River which delivers much of the water flow to Lake Okeechobee has been partly restored to a meandering river with floodplains that hold excess water. Floodplains hold water near streams and rivers and recharge the aquifers that provide refuge and habitat for wildlife. Farmers have also helped to recharge aquifers by storing water on their property instead of draining it through canals.
Voters in Florida passed a law called Amendment 1 which requires the state to buy undisturbed land for preservation. This law and previous moves by counties and the state to preserve land for water supplies is a smart move to provide for our water resource needs in the future.
Some information for this post came from an article published in the Ft. Myers News Press, “Water, water everywhere in Florida but whose is it ?”. July 20, 2015 and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, CHNEP.org summer issue volume 19, issue 2.
The South Florida Water Management District has a list of projects and efforts by the state to preserve water supplies and restore wetlands.