A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
WATER ISSUES WORKSHOP
OCTOBER 3, 2003
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Friday, October 3, 2003, at 8:30 a.m., in the Training Room (Room 233), on the second floor of the Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Debbie Stivender, Vice Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson; Jennifer Hill; and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; William “Bill” Neron, County Manager; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, Board of County Commissioner’s Office; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
There were approximately 30 people in attendance.
WATER ISSUES WORKSHOP
Commr. Welton Cadwell, Chairman, opened the meeting and turned the floor over to Ms. Blanche Girardin, Environmental Services Director, who gave the Board a brief lesson in Geology 101. She displayed pieces of dolomite, calcite, and limestone, compared the differences in them, and discussed how they are formed. She then gave a slide presentation and reviewed a packet of corresponding information that had been prepared for the Board’s perusal. She stated that the Floridan aquifer, which starts in South Carolina, expands into Alabama, and flows into Florida, consists of 100,000 square miles, however, noted that the State is going to have to start looking at surface waters as an alternative to its drinking water. She stated that there is a natural occurrence of salt water beneath every county in central Florida, which can be treated to potable quality.
It was noted that draw down of the Floridan aquifer allows increased salt water intrusion into the State’s drinking water.
LAKE COUNTY MODEL
Mr. Andy O’Reilly, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, addressed the Board and discussed the results of a study that was recently completed, regarding the Floridan aquifer system in Lake County and the Ocala National Forest. He stated that it was a cooperative project between the U.S. Geological Survey, the Lake County Water Authority, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the U.S. Forest Service. He discussed what a ground-to-water model is, how they make one, why they make one, etc., and the results of the study that was specific to Lake County. He stated that models are a simplification of a very complex natural system, noting that the geology and the groundwater flow is very complex. He stated that Mother Nature is much more complex than one will ever figure out, so a model, by its nature, is going to have some limitations and inaccuracies, but, it provides the best tool available at the time to make informed decisions. He stated that the primary purpose of a model is to simulate the effects of future pumping on the water levels in the aquifer and spring flows. He stated that the primary source of water is from rainfall, at which time he gave an example that, if 57 inches of rain fell in Lake County, 47 of that 57 inches would be lost to evapotranspiration, which he explained is the evaporation of water from lakes, streams, etc., and the transpiration of water by plants. He stated that the 10 inches that is left over is what would be left to recharge the surficial aquifer system, which is the shallowest water table aquifer in Central Florida. He stated that a small amount of artificial recharge, amounting to a little less than one inch per year in Lake County, is added to the few inches that is left over after evapotranspiration. He stated that artificial recharge comes from infiltration basins, spray fields, septic tanks, etc., amounting to approximately 11 inches of total recharge in the County to the surficial aquifer system, and, of that 11 inches, 4 inches discharges into streams, lakes, and wetlands as seepage, which only leaves 7 inches to percolate deeper into the system and actually recharge the Floridan aquifer system. He stated that, of the 7 inches that enters the Floridan aquifer, 3 inches discharges into springs, 2 inches is pumped out through wells, and the remaining 2 inches flows into adjoining counties.
Mr. O’Reilly stated that the highest recharge areas in the County are located south and east of Clermont, southwest of Lake Harris, in Mt. Dora, and in the Ocala National Forest. He stated that, as far as some discharge areas in the County are concerned, the southwest half of Lake Apopka and Lake Harris are discharge areas. He stated that, regionally, the St. Johns River is a large recharge area for the aquifer system in Central Florida. He discussed the draw down of water levels in each of the three major aquifers and the fact that some of the highest draw down areas are in south Lake County and Mt. Dora.
Mr. O’Reilly stated that some smaller springs could be impacted, however, noted that the springs in the Ocala National Forest are not greatly impacted, because there is not a lot of water usage in the forest. He stated that southern and central Lake County has the largest draw downs in the County. He stated that, when one looks at an aquifer, especially the Floridan aquifer, they need to look at it on a regional scale, noting that pumping that occurs outside Lake County affects the water levels and stream flows within the County and pumping within the County affects the water levels and stream flows outside the County.
Commr. Hanson questioned what effect the draw down has on the spring flow of the Wekiva and was informed that there is a direct relationship between the water level of the potentiometric surface at the spring and the spring discharge, in that, as the water level decreases, the spring flow is going to decrease.
Commr. Pool discussed the fact that the amount of discharge, in cubic feet per second, can be charted by the amount of rainfall the County has, or the lack of rainfall, noting that the more rainfall the County has the more cubic feet per second in discharge there is and the drier the droughts, the less cubic feet per second in discharge there is. He stated that Gourdneck Springs is pumping at approximately 30 to 31 cubic feet per second and has, historically, done that over the last 30 years. He stated that the Wekiva area has not seen a lot of growth, but south Lake County has seen tremendous growth, yet, over that 30 year period, the cubic feet per second of discharge has been basically the same. He stated that the houses in south Lake County that everyone is worried about have not disrupted the cubic feet per second of discharge from Gourdneck Springs at all, so it is not the houses that affect the springs, but rainfall.
Ms. Elizabeth Thomas, representing the St. Johns River Water Management District, informed the Board that the model being presented by Mr. O’Reilly was a worst case scenario. She stated that it is not what is happening, but shows what would happen by the year 2020 if everybody got what they were asking for and were allowed to withdraw from the aquifer for all their water supply needs, however, noted that the SJRWMD is not going to allow that to happen.
Commr. Hanson stated that, when the boundaries were approved by the Wekiva River Basin Coordinating Committee, she brought up the point that, if they were going to look at the total equation of water use into the future, she failed to see how they could do it, if they did not include the highest users of water, which is Orlando. She questioned what would be the best way to deal with conserving water, if Lake County is doing all the conserving and the larger counties that are adjacent to it are doing most of the consuming.
Mr. O’Reilly stated that the U.S. Geological Survey does not make management decisions, however, noted that, due to the fact that there are more people in Orange County, they are going to have a bigger effect on water consumption than Lake County. He stated that he felt the best way to come to some sort of solution would be to compromise, because a wall cannot be erected around each city or county and groundwater is going to flow in whatever direction it wants to flow, regardless of political entities.
Commr. Hanson interjected that they cannot come to a compromise, because all the parties involved are not at the table.
Mr. O’Reilly discussed the model that was created for the springs in the County, noting that all the water that discharges from the springs recharges the aquifer within its contributing area, which is how contributing areas are defined. He stated that the recharge that occurs eventually discharges from the Apopka spring and it may take from 20 to 1,000 years to do so. He stated that Alexander Springs, which is a larger spring, is estimated to discharge approximately 67 million gallons per day, which is three times the amount that the Apopka spring discharges, which has a big impact on the contributing area. He showed contributing areas and how they might change, based on 2020 conditions, noting that, if one were to look at the Apopka spring and contributing area under 2020 conditions, it is somewhat smaller than it was under the 1998 conditions, which is a direct result of the decrease in spring flow. He stated that a lot of effort is involved in making a model and that any model, especially one that predicts future conditions, is a work in progress and can always be improved. He stated that, as new data is collected, it can be incorporated into the model and the model can be improved accordingly.
Commr. Hanson questioned whether Mr. O’Reilly had created the same type of model for the Wekiva that he had created for Apopka, or Gourdneck Springs, and was informed that he had not.
Mr. O’Reilly stated that there is a greater draw down in parts of northeast Florida than there is in central Florida, but, they do not know the exact cause of it, noting that it could be a number of things.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 10:30 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess until 10:45 a.m.
WATER ISSUES WORKSHOP (CONT’D.)
WATER RESOURCE ISSUES
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, informed the Board that he would be rearranging the Agenda a little, because he would like for Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager/Growth Management Director, to address an issue that was not originally on the Agenda and then staff would continue with the remainder of the presentation.
Mr. Welstead informed the Board that approximately three weeks ago the County received a copy of the Orlando Utilities Commission’s (OUC) application for a Consumptive Use Permit requesting 109.2 million gallons per day. He stated that it is interesting to note that the current usage is 84.5 million gallons per day. He pointed out the fact that a few months ago the City of Clermont received a permit for five years, however, noted that at the end of that five years they will have to go back to their previous water level. He stated that next week the SJRWMD intends to issue the OUC a permit for 109.2 million gallons per day for 20 years, which is the issue, in that their historic rate has been increasing - in fact, the permit he alluded to will increase their consumption for the next 20 years by approximately 35%. He questioned why the City of Clermont and other cities in Lake County have to suffer the brunt of that volume and be limited to five years and additional requirements in the future, when the OUC does not. He stated that, if the cities in Lake County are required to reduce their water consumption in five years and come up with alternative sources, what is the answer for the OUC.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, interjected that Orange County is contemplating challenging that permit. He stated that another factor concerning the permit is that it allows the OUC to put treated effluent into areas close to the Wekiva, while the SJRWMD and the Department of Environmental Protection have been opposing Orange County from doing the same thing, on the basis that it might increase the nitrates in the springs. He stated that Orange County is concerned not only about the water use, but the treated effluent that the permit allows. He stated that they have not yet made a decision regarding the matter, noting that their Chairman is working with the County Attorney and will be making a decision this date regarding whether or not to file a petition.
Mr. Neron, County Manager, stated that he received a call from Mr. Wayne Saunders, Clermont City Manager, stating that he wanted to make sure the County was aware of the matter. He stated that it was discussed briefly at the City/County Managers’ Meeting and he would concur with Mr. Welstead that the County, in order to protect its interest, file the notice, so that staff can proceed to get an answer to the question.
Mr. Minkoff interjected that he wanted the Board to understand that filing a Petition for Administrative Hearing would be more than just saying that the County objects to the permit, it would be the beginning of a lawsuit. He stated that he was not advising the County not to do it, but wanted them to understand that it involves more than just sending a letter of objection.
Commr. Cadwell cautioned staff to make sure they do their research, so that the County does not end up being the pot that called the kettle black.
On a motion by Commr. Pool, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved to place the item of the Orlando Utilities Commission’s Consumptive Use Permit on the Agenda.
A motion was made by Commr. Stivender and seconded by Commr. Pool that the County file a petition to challenge the Administrative Hearing process involving the Orlando Utilities Commission.
Under discussion, Commr. Hanson stated that the County would be challenging both the years and the quantity and hoped the cities would join the County in their challenge.
Mr. Minkoff stated that he felt the County should look at the recharge issues, as well, with regard to water quality.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried, by a 5-0 vote.
DEVELOPMENT OF A WATER RESOURCE ISSUE
Ms. Girardin, Environmental Services Director, informed the Board that she would be reviewing various maps (contained in their backup material) that they might see when sitting on committees and are asked to make decisions regarding water issues, at which time she reviewed a map indicating priority water resource caution areas in the SJRWMD; a copy of the district wide model, showing projected changes in the elevation of the potentiometric surface of the Floridan aquifer system, in response to projected increases in groundwater withdrawals from 1995-2025; a map showing projected changes in the elevation of the water table of the surficial aquifer system, in response to projected increases in groundwater withdrawals from 1995-2025; and several potentiometric surface maps for 1961, 1980, and 2001. She stated that the SJRWMD is cooperating and has created the East Central Water Supply Regional Planning Area, referring to a map depicting said area, at which time she noted that they divided the area into four planning areas, with Lake County being in two of them.
Mr. Neron questioned the difference between self supply and public supply and whether agriculture was included in the self supply and was informed that public supply is utility and self supply is agriculture, industry, and individual wells, or anyone that is not hooked up to a utility system. She reviewed a map of the Wekiva River Basin Coordinating Committee’s (WRBCC) Adopted Study Area, noting that the red hash marked areas on the map indicate the spring groundwater shed that provides water over a long period of time to Wekiva Springs. She pointed out the fact that, for water to come from the Green Swamp to the springs takes anywhere from several hundred years to a thousand years.
Commr. Pool clarified that what Ms. Girardin was saying was that Gourdneck Spring is fed by what is not located within the red hash marked areas and that the Wekiva Basin is fed by what is within the hashed marked areas.
Ms. Girardin discussed the findings of a study that was conducted by the SJRWMD, where naturally occurring isotopes from limestone and naturally occurring isotopes that come into the County’s springs and groundwater systems from rain water were measured. She stated that the study indicates that the green area on the map is the springshed for the Wekiva and the red area on the map is Wekiva Springs itself. She stated that, through the study, the SJRWMD was able to age date the water and has found that Wekiva Springs is a very young spring. She stated that, although it takes from several hundred years to a thousand years to discharge, the bulk of the water is entering the springs within 17.1 years, according to the study. She discussed the fact that the SJRWMD looked at the nitrates and determined that the probable source for nitrates in the Wekiva River are animal waste (septic tanks and sewer systems) and publicly available fertilizers. She stated that the red area shown on the map is the critical area that the County should look at, for recharge to Wekiva Springs. She reviewed a map showing the recharge areas to the Upper Floridan aquifer, at which time she noted that recharge of 11 to 22 inches per year, which is a very high level of recharge, is occurring specifically in the area east of Lake Apopka, which amounts to 17.1 years of surface water and groundwater that is predominantly recharging the Wekiva Springs, or coming from an area that is located in Orange County. She stated that, when staff starts to address Apopka Springs, they will want to look at similar information to determine where the critical recharge areas are, so they can make good decisions in protecting the area that represents the 24.5 years that is the major supply to said springs. She pointed out areas on the map that she feels, if the Wekiva River Basin Coordinating Committee wants to take protective measures and wants them to work, are the areas to look at to take those protective measures.
It was noted that Lake County should be assisting them and should not be penalized, but the cities of Tavares, Mt. Dora, and Eustis, as well as the County, are being penalized for it.
Commr. Hanson questioned what is being done statewide to protect Polk County at the same level that the State is looking at protecting the Green Swamp and the Wekiva.
Ms. Thomas stated that the SWFWMD is taking a fairly significant enforcement action against Polk County, at which time Commr. Hanson stated that she felt it should be done legislatively, the same way that it is being done for the Wekiva.
Ms. Thomas stated that she would pass that information along to them.
Ms. Girardin informed the Board that the purpose of the workshop was to furnish them with information that they could use as a tool to help them do a better job, with regard to the Wekiva, noting that they could take the Lake County model, determine where the potential problems are, participate in these kinds of studies, and, when they take action they will be taking good, well informed action that will have results, the best results possible.
Mr. Neron informed the Board that staff would schedule the remaining items on the Agenda at a later date. He stated that they would like to bring back to the Board some issues related to water supply and water resources and how the County can work better with the cities on a regional basis sometime within the next three to four weeks.
The Board thanked Ms. Girardin and staff for a job well done and for giving them the facts that they needed, noting that they made the presentation informative and interesting.
Commr. Hanson brought up the issue of bottled water, at which time she noted that she feels the County should have some sort of policy on how it is going to deal with future enterprises involving bottled water.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the issue was discussed at one of the county meetings in St. Augustine and a couple of the counties are having problems with it.
Commr. Hanson stated that she feels the County is going to have a problem with much larger plants in the future than the one involving a case that was withdrawn at a recent Board Meeting.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he feels the best way to handle the matter is through land use regulations, as opposed to water regulations.
Mr. Minkoff, County Attorney, interjected that he felt the best way to address the matter would be through the County’s Comprehensive Plan policies.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:40 a.m.
WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK