Florida is in the midst of an abnormally difficult drought. With the majority of the problems situated in South Florida, concerns about the water supply, tourism and what less water could mean for the environment are growing rampant there.
The West Palm Beach water supply is drying up. The city is currently unable to supply enough water to meet the needs of all of its 110,000 customers, due to the extremely dry conditions.
According to The Palm Beach Post, city officials have two options to solve their problem: use city wellfield water (a potential permit violation) or obtain an emergency permit to use water from a reservoir (which could contain potentially harmful levels of salt).
The Post reports that the South Florida Water Management District permit requires that “for every gallon the city draws, a gallon in reclaimed water must be put back in.” Unfortunately for residents, Palm Beach’s water reuse facility hasn’t been providing any water as of late, because it is broken.
Plan B, pumping water from a reservoir, is a seemingly simple solution. But elevated levels of salt could be dangerous without proper dilution.
From the Post:
A pilot project this year that mixed water from Lake Okeechobee with the reservoir’s water was heralded by environmentalists and water managers as a solution to some environmental and water shortage problems. However, in the drought, there is little lake water that could be used to dilute the reservoir’s salinity.
The lingering drought in South Florida has also spelled trouble for the Everglades — an area used as a supplemental water supply for South Floridians. Because of the recent drought, however, water levels have dipped so low that additional removal could hinder conservation efforts in the area. According to a recent article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, water managers so far have no plans to withdraw additional water:
During past droughts, the prospect of moving more water than usually allowed out of the conservation areas drew stiff opposition from environmental groups.
District officials said Wednesday that they don’t plan to pursue temporarily lifting environmental protections to take more water from the Everglades water conservation areas.
The drought has other side effects, as well — including limiting boating and fishing access to lakes and canals, a potential problem for Florida’s summer tourism industry.