Water Service is Crucial to Attracting New DevelopmentLike wastewater services, the ability to provide water is crucial to attracting new development. The City staff is focused on “right-sizing” our tax base, by attracting more industrial and commercial development. The principal area of interest is SR 60 west, as well as the other areas of the City that are zoned for those uses. But unlike wastewater services, the City has the basic water infrastructure to supply about 5 times the number of customers we now serve.
In addition to wells, water towers, and pipes, the key to water service in the future will be the answer to the question, “How much water will the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) allow you to pump?” SWFWMD has already notified local governments that the amount of water pumped from wells in 2013 will be our “cap” in the future. After that year, cities and counties will not be allowed to pump out of the ground any additional amount of water over what was pumped in 2013. With growth expected to continue, where will the water come from to serve the new customers?
Water Supply PlanningPolk County pro-actively asked all of the cities to join with them in preparation of a county water supply plan to explore this topic. The plan has been completed and there are two recommendations that stand out:
- Conservation – the amount of drinking water now being used could be stretched much further if we all conserve. This conservation can be achieved in several ways, including the reduction in the use of irrigation water through the provision of re-use water, which is treated wastewater. As discussed in last week’s column the City is taking a number of steps to initiate a re-use system. The City cemetery, the Longleaf Business Park, and the new multi-purpose sports complex on Hunt Brothers Road are the first areas to be served with re-use water. The provision of re-use water will be essential to the growth of the City in the future; and
- Retired Agricultural Well Capacity – like many cities, Lake Wales has a utility service area that outlines the properties that the City intends to serve with water and sewer in the future. Much of this area surrounding the City limits is now being used for orange groves, and many groves have irrigation wells. When a former grove is sold and developed for another use, a portion of the capacity of the well can be assigned to offset the new water use. The question is, who will be the beneficiary of that capacity? Will it be the area where the former ag well is located, or some other area in the county? These and other questions must be answered definitively to avoid jurisdictional problems in the future.
Every provider of drinking water must operate under a permit from a water management district. Our City’s water management permit expires next year, and City staff is already working with SWFWMD staff to prepare the new permit request.
In the City’s water division there have been many advances in the past few years, with the building of the new well and storage tank at the airport, the building of the water tower near the intersection of Scenic Highway and Hunt Brothers Road, the elimination of chlorine gas and the switch to liquid chlorine, and the current task of changing the water meters out to new automatic, radio read water meters. City staff is continuing these successful efforts by identifying the challenges that lie ahead and moving forward in a cost-effective manner.