By: Katrina Elsken, Lake Okeechobee News
OKEECHOBEE — Lake Okeechobee is one of the water sources critical to supplying water for the growing population of the Lower East Coast under the South Florida Water Management District Lower East Coast (LEC) Water Supply Plan.
At their Nov. 8 meeting, the SFWMD Governing Board approved an update of the Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan, which ensures there will be enough drinking water for the more than 6 million residents of South Florida’s lower east coast region.
The LEC Water Supply Plan directly protects water sources in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties and parts of Monroe, Collier and Hendry counties for the next 20 years.
According to the plan, current water supply source options in the LEC Planning Area include surface water, groundwater (fresh and brackish), reclaimed water, and seawater. Surface water from canals, lakes, and water conservation areas, and fresh groundwater from the surficial aquifer system (SAS) are considered traditional water sources. Alternative water sources include brackish groundwater from the Floridan aquifer system (FAS), seawater, reclaimed water, and excess surface water and groundwater captured and stored in aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells, reservoirs, and other storage features. Use of alternative water supplies is an integral part of the current and future water supply strategy in the LEC Planning Area. Public water supply utilities within the LEC Planning Area primarily rely on fresh groundwater from the SAS, with limited use of the FAS and one utility using surface water.
Groundwater sources can meet 2040 public water supply demands; however, increases in fresh groundwater allocations are limited to comply with resource protection criteria, the plan states. Of the 54 public water supply utilities in the LEC Planning Area, nine will need to construct new projects to meet their projected 2040 demands, and six of those will need additional permit allocations. These new projects include expanded use of the FAS and use of the C-51 Reservoir, both of which are alternative water sources, or interconnections for bulk water from nearby utilities.
Approximately three-quarters of the total agricultural acreage in the LEC Planning qrea is in the Everglades Agricultural Area, which relies exclusively on surface water. There are two other agricultural areas in the LEC Planning Area that rely on fresh groundwater: southern Miami-Dade County and the eastern portion of Hendry County. In those areas, according to the report, groundwater sources can meet 2040 agriculture demands; however increases in fresh groundwater allocations are limited by resource protection criteria…