S. Florida water plan on tap
District's $660 million proposal would stem shortages through 2010

By NEIL SANTANIELLO
Staff Writer
News-Sun-Sentinel

Water managers have produced a $660 million plan to help South Florida avert potential water shortages through the year 2010.

The package of recommendations carries a price one-third cheaper- and more financially palatable- than a billion-dollar proposal considered in November.

Much of the savings came after water managers downsized a big-ticket proposal to store bubbles of excess rainwater deep underground- 900 feet or more- for retrieval in dry times.

Under the new plan, only one regional aquifer well will be built as a pilot project.

The South Florida Water Management District thinks its plan- four years in the making- will assure adequate water for competing needs: homes and businesses, farms and wildlife.

"It is [a proposal] where you can see a dramatic improvement in water supply," said John Mulliken, the district's Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan manager.

But the plan, which may go before the district's nine-member governing board in May, does not detail how its package of 42 recommendations will be financed.

Among the possibilities broached are boosting property taxes, charging utilities fees and tacking taxes onto fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals.

The district's chief planner, Dan Cary, tried to put the pricetag in perspective:"One interchange can cost as much as the whole water supply plan will."

Some elements also may qualify for matching federal funds.

The plan was forged by water managers and a 55-member advisory committee that included farmers, environmentalists, water plant managers, and others.

"What we really want to do is build partnerships here," Mulliken said.

The plan offers a range of proposals from conservation programs- such as reusing sewage water- and digging wells to redirect rainwater now dumped into the ocean to surface and subterranean reservoirs.

A 1600-acre reservoir is proposed for a former landfill site west of Boca Raton. A reservoir 12 times that size, 20,000 acres and 8 feet deep, is recommended in sugar and vegetable farmlands south of Lake Okeechobee. A third reservoir would capture water flushed out of the Lake Worth Drainage District.

"The biggest problem in the [water supply] system is we just don't have enough storage," Cary said.

The plan also endorses Broward County's request that water from major east-west Broward canals be steered into smaller north-south ones to recharge drinking water wells.

And it recommends that Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Hallandale dig new wells and find water from alternative sources.

Mulliken said the plan to pump more water into Broward drainage canals from a regional water supply network can help fill drinking water wells from the Hillsboro Canal to the New River and stave off salt water intrusion that could taint their supply.

Water managers are forecasting a 16 percent increase in water demand in Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties 13 years from now as the population climbs to 6 million, 44 per cent higher than 1990.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

The South Florida Water Management District plan's key recommendations for Palm Beach and Broward Counties:

CREATE a 1600-acre reservoir on Site 1- property once considered for a landfill west of Boca Raton- if a pilot project and federal study show that it would help ease regional water demands.

CONSIDER creating a reservoir inside the Lake Worth Drainage District to receive and store excess rainfall now dumped into the ocean through canals.

PROVIDE grants to local governments and ultilities to encourage them to store water reserves in aquifer reservoirs, reusing wastewater, and take other steps to reduce reliance on drinking-water wells.

BUILD a 20,000 acre, 8-foot deep water reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

DISCHARGE water from major regional canals into Broward County's smaller, secondary canals to help fill drinking water wells and prevent saltwater intrusion.

INCREASE the amount of water stored in Lake Okeechobee without harming its shore-area marshes.

FIND ways to finance the plan's recommendations.

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