An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Retention pond overflows, forcing couple from their home

A couple forced out of their home after the heavy rains of Hurricane Irma are blaming a nearby I-4 retention pond for the problem.

Water overflowed that pond, surrounding two homes on Lake Oaks Boulevard near Longwood.

Dan Kinchen has photos that show the water at its highest point.

"The water came up and surrounded us, like an island," Kinchen said.

Kinchen said water never got into his house, but he said he believes the damage is a direct result of the crawl space being inundated with water.

"Our doors started not to close, and (were) getting stuck. That's how we knew that something was wrong," Kinchen said. "The house is shifting."

Kinchen said he shared drone footage of the Florida Department of Transportation-owned retention area that is intended to catch I-4 runoff water. He said the pond failed during Hurricane Irma.

"The rains, the feeder bands, filled the pond, and what dirt, what little barrier was there, breached," Kinchen said.

"What we want to find out is what was going on with this retention pond," said Steve Olson, public information manager for the Florida Department of Transportation.

FDOT said it's working with its contractor to figure out what happened and how to prevent a repeat occurrence.

Altamonte Springs testing purifying, recycling wastewater for drinking

The City of Altamonte Springs is working on a way to take wastewater and recycle it into purified drinking water, in order to get ahead of any shortages of one of the state's most valued resources.

  • City, state partnered to test process
  • PureALTA takes treated sewer water through additional purification
  • Ultraviolet light used to sterilize water
With Florida’s population quickly growing by the day, one of Florida’s most valuable resources is getting used more and more.

SJRWMD awards Blue School grants to schools for water resource education

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PALATKA — Eleven schools are receiving grant funding from the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Blue School Grant Program for projects to enhance student development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related topics. More than two dozen teachers applied for funding this year and of them the top 11 projects were selected. The program offers $20,000 in financial support to teachers working to promote water resource protection through hands-on learning opportunities.

“Thank you to these teachers and their schools for their commitment to educating Florida’s future leaders about our water resources,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “I commend each of these educators for supporting a legacy of water resource protection and look forward to seeing their project achievements in the months ahead.”

Among the schools receiving 2017–18 Blue School Grant funds are:

  • Wekiva High School, Orange County, for an aquaponics project for STEM learning
  • Tuskawilla Middle School, Seminole County, for water quality field study at Lake Lotus
  • South Lake High School, Lake County, for a classroom and community awareness project

The Blue School Grant Program, now in its second year, provides grants of up to $2,000 for a range of middle school and high school educational programs to enhance student knowledge of Florida’s water resources. Projects may include water quality improvement field studies, water conservation garden projects, classroom/community awareness and freshwater resources educational programs.

For more details on a particular project funded through this year’s Blue School Grant Program please reach out to the media contact listed at the top of this release. For information about Blue School grants in general, visit the district’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/education/blue-school/.

What will Florida (and its water supply) look like in 2070?

The Florida of 2070 is at a crossroads today.

That’s the conclusion of two reports released late last year by 1000 Friends of Florida, the University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center and the state’s Department of Agriculture. With the state’s population expected to swell to 33.7 million by 2070, almost 15 million more than identified in the 2010 Census, researchers teamed up to look at growth trends and sprawl.

One report, Florida 2070, says if development continues on its current path, more than a third of the state will be paved over by 2070. That means millions of acres of agricultural and natural lands will be lost, to say nothing of the jobs, natural resources and quality-of-life indicators tied to them.

Another report, Water 2070, says almost 15 million new Floridians will overburden an already fragile water supply, with water use projected to more than double by 2070.

District commends Altamonte Springs for award-winning water reuse project

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board is commending the city of Altamonte Springs for its award-winning work to expand water resources in Florida. The city’s pureALTA Potable Reuse Demonstration Pilot was recently named the 2017 WaterReuse Innovative Project of the Year at the national WaterReuse Symposium in Phoenix, Ariz.

“The city of Altamonte Springs is a pioneer in water reuse, and we are proud to be the city’s funding partner as its leaders explore this innovative approach to sustainable water supply,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “I’m confident the city’s work will help guide future generations who share our commitment to ensuring sustainable use of Florida’s water.”

“We are honored to accept the 2017 WaterReuse Innovative Project of the Year Award for the pureALTA project. Developing alternative water supplies are critical to Florida’s future generations. Through pureALTA, the City of Altamonte Springs has created a sustainable water model that can be adapted and replicated nationally,” said Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz. “We are thankful for the partnership of St. Johns River Water Management District. Together we form a powerful team.”

The city’s potable reuse pilot provides the city the opportunity to expand water resources and build a safe, sustainable way to meet long-term water supply demands. Beyond producing purified water that meets all drinking water quality standards, the pilot will produce data that can be used to develop a regulatory framework for potable reuse, serve as a model for similar projects in the region and provide educational opportunities.

The district provided $500,000 in funding to the project through its cost-share program, which funds projects that assist in creating sustainable water resources, provide flood protection or enhance conservation efforts.

Lake O hits highest level since 2005, raising concerns its dike could fail

Rainfall from Hurricane Irma has pushed the water level in Lake Okeechobee to its highest point since 2005. Now, with more wet weather in the forecast, nearby residents fear a collapse of the 80-year-old dike around the lake.

As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping large volumes of lake water out into coastal estuaries — exactly as it did last year, when those releases caused a massive toxic algae bloom that closed Atlantic coast beaches over the Fourth of July weekend.

Meanwhile, Corps officials have stepped up inspections of the dike to three to four times a week to make sure its continuing leaks don't grow to the point of endangering people living near it.

"We recognize that as the water level continues to rise, there is an increased risk of failure," Corps spokesman John Campbell said.

The dike around the lake is classified as one of the most vulnerable in the nation. The earthen embankment on the south end of the lake is older, and thus more in danger of being breached, he said.

That puts the communities south of the lake — Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston among them — at the greater risk for both property damage and loss of life.

Is development draining Florida’s aquifer system beyond repair?

"Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs, so when you reduce their flow, they start getting sick." —Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute

The economic benefits of development and the preservation of natural resources are continually being weighed against each other. In a state like Florida, this conversation is often a protracted — even heated — one because so much of the state’s tourism industry is reliant on keeping its beaches, parks and springs as pristine as possible. The boon delivered by tourism also justifies questions about how new construction and expanding agricultural operations could put a dent in one of the state’s biggest revenue streams.

More than 112 million tourists visited Florida last year, a 5.9% increase from 2015, Florida Today reported. Those visitors spent $109 billion and generated 1.4 million jobs.

And some visitors are staying.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced last month that the state had seen the number of private businesses increase by 16.5% since December 2010. While many of the net 75,449 businesses added since then are homegrown, the figure also includes those coming from out of state to set up shop. The growth in the number of businesses in the state is one contributor to its strong population growth currently.

That’s good news and bad news for the state. The good news is that all those new people will need places to live, shop, work, learn, relax and seek medical care, which means a boost for the state's construction industry and its workers. Local and state agencies also get to collect more property, sales and other taxes as a result.

The bad news is that the strain on the state’s aquifer system — the subterranean limestone reservoirs that provide most of the water that Floridians use to drink, bathe and water their lawns — is starting to become evident.

Seminole will appeal sky-high water rate increases approved by Public Utilities Commission

Seminole County commissioners voted Tuesday to mount a court challenge to the Public Service Commission’s recent approval of drastic water and wastewater rate hikes for tens of thousands of Central Florida homeowners.

County attorneys pointed to a state law that says the Public Service Commission shall “fix rates which are just, reasonable, compensatory, and not unfairly discriminatory.”

“It’s clear that it’s not reasonable,” Seminole Commissioner Lee Constantine said about the dramatic rate increase by Utilities Inc. of Florida scheduled to go into effect in coming weeks.

“I’m very strongly in favor in pursuing this action,” he said before joining three other county commissioners in voting to file the appeal.

Chuck Scales, president of the Sweetwater Oaks homeowners association, a west Seminole neighborhood of nearly 1,400 homes, applauded the move by commissioners to appeal the Aug. 3 decision by state regulators.