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President's Message (C Factor)

Conservation and the Future of Water
By Mike Darrow
Posted on 4/5/2018 8:42 PM

Today’s water demands are ever changing in Florida. By using conservation tech- niques  and  current  technology,  con-

 

sumers are saving more water then ever, in term of usage. This is a multifront approach, using many different paths:

  • Flow devices in application for homes and industry

  • Lawn and garden best management practices

  • Natural plant and vegetation plantings

  • Rain collecting

  • Aquifer recovery projects

  • Regional planning

  • Industry using reclaimed water cool towers and processes

  • Sustainable farming operations

  • Tailwater ponds

  • Soil moisture temperature devices to control application of irrigation

  • Water rate structures for high demands

  • Minimum  flow and  level  practices  from water management districts

  • Alternative  supplies  and  reclaimed  water projects

  • Leak detection and repair

  • Monitoring of systems to optimize pressures and flow

  • Optimizing backwashing and plant usage

 

Using of all these means that our gallons per capita per day (gpcd) will continue to de- cline. In fact, we are at our lowest gpcd in the last 30 years at a lot of utilities around the state. This measure indicates that we all are conservation-minded—and it’s working!

 

Yet, I just read a news feed that lists 10 major global cities that will run out of drinkable water in the next 20 years. This is the future we have all been trying to avoid—a future with lim- ited source water and options (by the way, on that list the City of Miami was number 11). Al- though, with all of the “fake news” out there, I’m not really sure where Miami does rank, or if this is even true, but salt water intrusion is a big problem for us all, with increased groundwater withdrawals and the proximity of many of us to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This is one scary future for some coastal cities.

 

Rainfall in Florida is very cyclical and will recharge the aquifers to some degree, so rain is a good thing here and I’m glad to see it. We re- ceive approximately four times the amount of rainfall as the drought-laden state of Califor- nia—what’s up with that?

 

So, why is there a problem with future water supplies? Well (no pun intended), demand is going up! Like my old economics classes at East- ern Illinois University taught me, when the de- mand starts to exceed the supply it causes upward reactions in price, and then technologies develop to increase supply. Then, as demand  grows and the gap widens, choices will be made to move the lines closer together. This has been happening to a limited extent for some time here in Florida, even with regional and city planning efforts.

 

California uses 60 to 70 percent of its water in most areas for agricultural use, while in Florida we use only 30 to 40 percent. The per- centage of land use for farm production around the United States has been  decreasing yearly since the 1960s, but an increase in housing and commercial development has caused public sup- ply to be the number one reason for an increase in demand. That’s why public suppliers have to work together to plan a path in meeting and treating water for development growth. The cost and availability of source water will also drive which treatment will be used for public supply.

 

I live by the I-4 corridor, near the wonder- ful City of Plant City, which is where I work. The city is home of the Strawberry Fest, which is going on as I write this, and it wouldn’t be hap- pening  without abundant  water to grow the fruit! The state’s population in the next 20 to 30 years is expected to grow 40 to 50 percent here in central Florida alone. Florida’s growth is very dependent on our supply of water and our ability to treat wastewater to accommodate this growth.

 

Florida leads the nation in reclaimed water production for rapid infiltration basins and ir- rigation usage. But lately, production is leveling out for purple piping projects. Investments in different areas are drawing money into aquifer recharge salt water barriers and groundwater in- jection projects. At some point, the gap will widen again and drive it to a more direct method of reuse or indirect reuse to recharge potable supplies. Currently, many good city and utility leaders are leading the charge for this cause for Florida’s water future. They have been working with the agencies and different associations around the state to develop rules and ac- ceptable practices in rule making for the usage of potable reuse and other options.

 

Another issue is going to be the future cost of water, as compared to today. As we move to more concentrated water sources, the cost of treating water will increase. Most of the time it will be when demand far exceeds supply, which is why potable and indirect potable water reuse is a good choice. In my humble opinion, this re- ally is the only option for most interior cities and counties to sustain growth and supply in the future when the less-expensive-to-treat water is gone and other options are not there. Why not recycle water to its highest quality and reuse it for years to come? This would then lower the withdrawal amount and aquifers could actually sustain themselves. Groundwater would be left for natural and current uses.

 

Which all leads to this question: What is our role in this growth as operators, technicians, and mechanics? My thought is that our role is to use water and technology wisely so we can continue to service our communities now and in the future. We also need to educate our employees in advanced technologies, instrumenta- tion, and cross training of disciplines.

 

The future development plans for your area could be resting on our ability to supply ade- quate amounts of clean drinking water or treat- ing waste streams. Using advanced technologies, we will need the treated reuse or recycled water from our wastewater plants or treat water from brackish or salt water sources. We must stay on our game of water and wastewater treatment and be equipped for the future and aware of all the options out there. This means keeping your training skills honed in advanced technologies for whatever discipline you are in.

 

The FWPCOA will be looking at more training options for future recycled water meth- ods and technologies. Also, a question I’ve heard is: Who should be operating these facilities? Well, I think the answer is water and wastewater operators. In the City of Plant City our staff is dual-certified, which is a rarity in our business. The role the staff members play in working with both wastewater and water, and by changing roles daily, is a future that many facilities in our state will emulate. This insight has given me the opinion that all operators will have to be dual- certified to do their functions properly and un- derstand that source water requires advanced treatment for it to become high-purity water for direct potable reuse. Our organization will be looking to work with all aspects of future recy- cled water resources.

 

As some rules and guidelines are being de- volved by the state, at some point operators and technicians should get involved in this process to have some input and participate with other professions to make good decisions for the in- dustry and our consumers. So I encourage you to get involved in your local utility or at any level in the state regulatory process and get in on the conversation.

If you have any suggestions or concerns on this topic, make sure you attend the Operators Showcase being held at the upcoming Florida Water Resource Conference (FWRC) on April 15-18 in Daytona Beach. We will be discussing these issues, as well as other topics relevant to our profession.

 

The FWRC is an event where many professionals in many of the disciplines involved in our industry come together at the educational seminars, technical sessions, and exhibit hall to share ideas and learn about new technologies and equipment used for the future of our pro- fession. It’s a place to network with folks who do the same things you do. I encourage you to attend if you can and I hope to see you there. And finally, as a big hockey fan: Go Bolts!