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Florida local governments get $43.1 million
to develop water recycling projects

By Neil Santaniello
Staff Writer

October 13, 2005

South Florida water managers agreed Wednesday to hand local governments $43.1 million to develop other sources of water, largely by recycling treated sewage and tapping into underused, brackish groundwater.

The bulk of that money, $30 million, comes from the state Legislature, which is beefing up the program to help cities and counties look beyond easy, cheap and heavily used supplies to find sources of additional water for population growth.

In southeast Florida, the go-to source has long been the Biscayne Aquifer, a huge porous rock formation many utilities draw upon for drinking water.

The $43.1 million the South Florida Water Management District will distribute this fiscal year is seven times the amount of financial aid for alternative water the district parceled out to governments last fiscal year.

The money will be spread among 80 projects in various counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys, but the largest portion, $12.9 million, will go to 29 projects in Palm Beach County.

Included on that list of projects: $5 million for a new water-treatment plant and wells for Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay; $222,000 for a storage well for Boynton Beach; $1 million for brackish water wells and a reverse osmosis treatment plant for Lake Worth, and $1.5 million to expand the reclaimed water system for the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Plant, which serves Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.

Broward County garnered $2.5 million for four projects, with almost 60 percent of that going to Fort Lauderdale. The money will help pay for Floridan Aquifer water withdrawals for the city. Pompano Beach received $148,000 to expand reclaimed water lines to homes.

Broward County did not have as many projects to offer for funding but is gearing up to do more in the future, said Carlyn Kowalsky, water supply department director for the water district. "They're getting there," she said.

Miami-Dade captured $2.1 million of the water district money.

Promoting alternative water helps reduce the risk of exhausting the region's main water supplies. It protects wetlands, too, since wellfields sunk into the Biscayne Aquifer are fed by water withdrawn at times from the Everglades, Kowalsky said.

The entire slate of projects should generate another 304 million gallons a day of water upon completion, more than the amount of water Miami-Dade County consumes in one day, she said.

And it will help southeast Florida improve a lackluster reclaimed water record.

The metro area from Palm Beach through Monroe County recycles 11 percent of its treated wastewater, although Beach County is the most aggressive with a 29 percent rate, the water district said. Other areas of the state recycle more than 90 percent and some 100 percent.

Neil Santaniello can be reached at nsantaniello@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6625.

Copyright 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel