south lake water summit

november 21, 2013

The South Lake Water Summit was held on Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 5:00 p.m., at Clermont City Hall, 685 W. Montrose St., Clermont, Florida.  Commissioners present at the water summit were:  Timothy I. Sullivan and Sean Parks.  Others present were:  David Heath, County Manager; Erin Hartigan, Deputy County Attorney; and Shannon Treen, Deputy Clerk.

welcome and pledge of allegiance

Mr. Mike Bucher with United Southern Bank, Chair of the Public Policy Committee for the South Lake Chamber of Commerce, welcomed everyone to the South Lake Water Initiative Summit and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

overview and introductions

Mr. Bucher related that the Chamber of Commerce has addressed many local, regional, and state initiatives through their Public Policy Committee for the betterment of South Lake County.  He specified that the Chamber recognized in 2011 that there was a need for them to address water issues and alternative water supplies, and as a result of that they pulled together all of the South Lake cities, the County, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), and the Lake County Water Authority into a task force, which eventually resulted in the formation of the South Lake Water Initiative Committee with Commr. Parks as their Chair.  He related that they have had a number of meetings and initiatives since that time, have received some grants from the SJRWMD to assist them with some of their reuse pipes in Groveland as well as alternative water supply storage facilities in Clermont, and continue to meet on a monthly basis.  He mentioned that the Central Florida Water Initiative is also underway with some studies about the supply of water going into the future, and he opined that it was important to understand how South Lake County connects into the greater Central Florida region and what that would mean to them from a strategic standpoint going forward with their water plan.

Commr. Parks thanked everyone for coming to the water summit to learn about such an important issue, and he introduced the elected officials that were present from the Water Authority and city officials from some of the South Lake cities.  He pointed out that a loss of the lakes and water resources will result in the loss of many businesses and the quality of life in the area.  He commented that water has become a serious concern and an issue for all of South Lake County, and this summit will be about shedding light on serious issues that affect their water resources as well as a comprehensive approach of what they could do about it and follow-up action.  He indicated that they would examine and discuss the effects of three issues, which were the amount of rainfall, surface water diversions or historical alterations to the land that may be affecting water levels in their lakes and wetlands, and groundwater withdrawals.  He stated that he also would give an update on the South Lake Water Initiative, and he mentioned that there would be a panel discussion later in the meeting.

Commr. Parks read the biography of Mr. Michael Perry, Executive Director of the Lake County Water Authority, which stated that he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science and Biology from Jacksonville University and a Master of Science from the University of South Carolina and completed post-masters academic work at the University of Florida.  He added that Mr. Perry came to the Water Authority from the Southwest Water Management District where he was responsible for the preparation and implementation of watershed management and restoration plans for Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Crystal River, Kings Bay, and Lake Hancock, and he has over 28 years of extensive technical experience.  He related that Mr. Tom Bartol, the Assistant Director of the Division of Regulatory Engineering and Environmental Services at the SJRWMD, has a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the US Air Force Academy and a Master of Science from Perdue University; and he is a registered professional engineer in Florida and has over 30 years of experience in civil and environmental engineering in both public and private sectors.  He noted that Mr. Bartol is responsible for water supply, engineering, and the environmental science programs at the SJRWMD.  He then read the biography of Mr. Alan Oyler, the consultant for the SJRWMD, who graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering in 1981 and is a registered professional engineer.  He added that Mr. Oyler retired as the City of Orlando’s Public Works Director and the Green and Sustainability policy advisor after 28 years of service and has been very involved with the development of over half a billion dollars of major waste water collection, treatment facilities, and reclaimed water systems in Central Florida.  He specified that Mr. Oyler developed the concept of the East Regional Reclaimed Water System, a 17-mile regional system that serves two counties, a state university, and the City of Orlando.

history and trends

Mr. John Harris, Chairman of the Lake County Water Authority and a resident of South Lake County, explained that the Lake County Water Authority has been around since 1953 with the primary purpose of ensuring that the lakes, streams, rivers, and canals in Lake County are clean, open, and navigable and to foster tourism.  He stated that their board is made up of seven trustees who are elected officials, they employ 15 employees, and they own 19 pieces of property, 17 of which are preserves around the county.  He related that the Water Authority provides recreational facilities such as Hickory Point Park, and he reported that the overall water quality has improved over the last three years according to the testing they have done, although the water level is low.  He mentioned that residents can call the Water Authority to use one of their canoes or kayaks free of charge in one of the county’s waterways and noted that they also sponsor a water atlas which contains information on the quality and levels of water, which is on their website, lcwa.org.

Mr. Mike Perry, Executive Director of the Lake County Water Authority, explained the hydrology of the Clermont Chain of Lakes, stating that water that flows from the basins comes through Big Creek and Little Creek and enters into Lake Louisa, then into Lake Minnehaha, through other lakes, to the Palatlakaha River and ultimately to the Harris Chain.  He commented that the biggest and most important basins are the Big and Little Creek basins, and he emphasized that rainfall has to fall within that basin for it to travel to the Clermont Chain.  He also noted that lakes are mainly driven by surface water and rainfall rather than groundwater.  He mentioned that the Big Creek Basin is large, runs down into central Polk County, takes a long time to drain, is confined on the east by the Lake Wales Ridge and on the west by lesser ridges, and is very flat with a slope of only about a half foot per mile. He explained that they needed to see a consistent 50 cubic feet per second flow, which is equivalent to 32 million gallons per day, in order to offset evaporation and keep the level of the lakes at a balance.  He related that Little Creek is a little further to the west, empties into Lake Louisa, and is also very flat; and since it is a smaller basin, it will peak up and drain off faster.  He mentioned that there are also a couple of contributing basins near the Green Swamp, whose flows are also largely affected by rainfall. He showed a graph depicting the pressure from the water table shown by how high that water would come when a hole was drilled through it, noting that the lake above that level would discharge as springs, and water would go from the lake generally into the aquifer if it was below that level.  He added that some lakes are discharge lakes and some are recharge lakes.  He showed an illustration of an outline of Lake Apopka, Lake Harris, Lake Dora, Lake Eustis, and Lake Griffin, noting that the areas in red depict areas of very high recharge where water was going back into the aquifer.  He emphasized that the lakes in the Clermont Chain were recharge lake water that was not spring-fed, although there were some spring-fed lakes in the Harris Chain.

Mr. Perry discussed historic lake levels, and he mentioned that they have gotten enough rain during the last 30 days to keep levels flat where there is no decline or gain, since the amount of rain has been offsetting the amount of evaporation.  He noted, however, that since they generally get the majority of their rainfall during the summer, the lake level has responded to the rain they have gotten over the last six months, and he pointed out that the levels were a little higher this year than they were at the same time last year.  He recalled that there was a record drought in 2002 resulting in the lowest lake levels ever recorded, which was followed by record rainfall the following year.  He showed a graph of the rainfall going back to 1945, pointing out that it has been at about the current level in 1994, 1982, and 1960; however, he indicated concern that they have been in unprecedented persistent drought conditions for the last seven years, which may be indicative of other factors.  He illustrated on a graph a departure from normal rainfall of an average of 50.5 inches of rain annually, and he noted that they were still 10 inches short of average rainfall for this year at the end of October.  He emphasized that although they had more rainfall than normal in 2005, there has been consistently below average rainfall since 2004.  He mentioned that they had several rain gauges throughout the county, each one recorded on a monthly basis and all averaged on a yearly basis, and he illustrated that the deficit for all the years since 2005 would be the equivalent of 62.35 inches of rainfall that did not occur that normally would have, which is equivalent to about 5.2 feet and a substantial amount of rain.  He emphasized that that was significant factor, because the lakes are primarily driven by rainfall, and he predicted that they would be having a poor rainfall season again this year.  He commented that it was hard to make up a deficit in lake levels with below average rainfall, and he explained that a historic pattern since 1945 showed that lake levels generally follow rainfall.

Mr. Perry presented a graph showing the aquifer level based on a Water Management District well, noting that it generally mimics rainfall and follows a similar pattern as the lakes but with a delay for the time it takes the water to get down into the aquifer.  He related that in 2002 the Water Management District hired a consultant to study whether rainfall or consumptive use was the main reason for low lake levels at that time, and the results of that study indicated that only four percent of the lake level decline at that time could be explained by anything other than lack of rain.  He stated that the District was just finishing their Central Florida Water Initiative Model, which shows similar results of 5 to 15 percent of lake level decline that could be related to something other than rainfall, and they also revisited another model which showed that ground water withdrawals as a whole do not have a significant impact on lake levels, with rainfall continuing to be the dominant factor.

Mr. Perry discussed historic alterations, pointing out that they have not opened up the dam to let water out of Cherry Lake, since there was no water available for them to move.  He added that since the structures are designed to hold water back into the system, they would have to have higher water levels on the other side to create cascading pools.  He assured everyone that Lake Lowery, located at the bottom of the Big Creek Basin, was no longer an issue, since Polk County has done everything that was in their agreement in order to ensure that there was no water leaving the system from the south and that the water would stay in that basin until it accumulated sufficiently to flow north.  He mentioned that there has been concern about some potential diversions that have been made historically in the system that would affect the historic flow, and the Water Authority was looking at restoration efforts in order to fix problems along CR 474 near the Polk County-Lake County border caused by farmers who had previously built culverts to offset flooding when the water level got too high to the point where there was some impediment to flow through those areas; however, the Water Authority does not think that that effort would be the answer to all of the problems with those lakes.  He also commented that there were environmental factors affecting lake levels as well, and he noted that during periods of time when there is high temperatures, low humidity, and bright sunshine, such as in the spring, they could be seeing as much as a quarter of an inch per day of evaporation coming off of the surface of the lakes, which was significant.  He pointed out that most of the 259 homes on Lake Minnehaha were using the lake for irrigation, which would use approximately 15,000 gallons per week per home or 200 million gallons per year, and would account for 2 percent of the volume of that lake.  He summarized that overall rainfall drives the system and that current groundwater withdrawals do not seem to have an impact on lake levels and are not causing a problem at this time; also, the amount of rainfall coming into Big and Little Creek is as much or more important as what falls on the lake itself, since they need the flow coming out of those basins into the lake.

impacts and relationships:  central florida water initiative

Mr. Tom Bartol, who leads the Water Supply Planning Team, related that he would give a presentation on the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) Regional Water Supply Plan.  He explained that the CFWI is a collaborative water supply planning effort to protect, develop, and conserve Central Florida’s water resources, and he noted that the water management districts were devised on surface water basins rather than on the notion of groundwater; however, about 95 percent of the water that is used for public supply and domestic uses in this and many other areas comes out of the groundwater.  He mentioned that the three water management districts had differed somewhat in their views and plans, but it was decided about four or five years ago that there should only be one groundwater model and one set of tools to evaluate plans and permits and to look for solutions for the area encompassing Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Polk, and South Lake Counties, which resulted in a very important initiative for consistency in their plans and programs for the people of the Central Florida area. He related that one of the challenges they face is that they are reaching sustainable groundwater limits in this area and have actually surpassed those limits in other counties, and they have to plan to meet the future demands and protect the water resources in their planning process.  He opined that the shared groundwater model took years to develop and was a very comprehensive and complex tool which they are now using for their water supply plan with one strategy for minimum flows and levels as well as one regional supply plan.  They have projected that the current population of 2.7 million people in the five-county area will increase by 50 percent by 2035, which also needs to be taken into account to determine future water demands.  He highlighted that water use is projected to be 1.1 billion gallons per day in the five-county area, which is an increase of 35 percent from the 800 million gallons per day it had been since 1995, and they are looking at finding solutions for meeting those future demands for water resources.  He noted that water demand has been flat since about 1995 in this region despite a population increase of 1 million persons, which was a tribute to water conservation efforts of the utilities, suppliers, and users.

Mr. Bartol explained that one of the components of the water supply plan is water resource analysis with the assumption that they would use traditional sources, which was fresh groundwater in this area, to meet the future demands, and they look at the effects on the water resources of the area such as the rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and springs, especially a very important spring system in this area that they are concerned about.  He related that after that analysis they determine a sustainable level, determine acceptable and unacceptable changes to those water resources, and then develop solutions.  He noted that traditional groundwater sources can meet some but not all projected and permitted needs in this area.  He specified that 800 mgd (million gallons per day) has been the average groundwater use from 1995 to 2010, and their determination is that the sustainable level of traditional groundwater sources for water supply without causing unacceptable harm to the water resources and associated natural systems would be 850 mgd.  He stated that they determined that they have to come up with about 250 mgd of water supply options in the future, which he pointed out they have done in their water supply plan.  He showed a map which illustrated the areas that are particularly susceptible to groundwater withdrawals, including Lake Wales Ridge and South Lake County, and he commented that there were regional influences in some cases that cause that susceptibility.    He explained that one of the key water resources that they looked at in the water supply plan were the minimum flows and levels (MFL), noting that the District has gone through intensive hydrologic engineering and scientific studies to show what level would cause significant harm to those ecosystems.  He mentioned that these MFL’s are actually adopted by rule by the SJRWMD in order to guide them about what would be a sustainable level of withdrawal.  He presented a map showing that with the current water use, the adopted MFL’s are being met in the South Lake region, but that is not expected to be the case in the future.

Mr. Bartol explained that the water management districts are working on putting together strategies to ensure that they can meet future water demands without harming those water resources, including  water conservation measures to ensure that they will limit water use enough to meet the future demands, and they have identified in the Central Florida Water Initiative region 86 reclaimed water projects for irrigation, 35 projects using highly-treated brackish rather than fresh groundwater, 15 surface water projects mostly on the St. Johns River, and other management strategies to make more efficient use of the groundwater, including an emphasis on water conservation measures.  He specified that some of the projects in the plan for Lake County are the Clermont Regional Reclaimed Water Storage Reservoir Project, the Thrill Hill Reservoir, a reclaimed water distribution facility, and Project RENEW, which would bring more reclaimed water to the area to be used in golf facilities and some developments.  He related that the next steps were to work with local government partners to identify projects and strategies to ensure that they could protect the water resources as well as support economic growth in Lake County.  He announced that the draft of the water supply plan that they have been working on for years is due out on November 26, which will start a 45-day public comment period ending on January 10, 2014, and he encouraged everyone to review the plan and to provide comments.  He also announced that they would be having their fourth public meeting on the water supply plan on December 12 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Clermont, and he mentioned that the plan will be posted on cfwiwater.com.

south lake regional water initiative

Commr. Parks commented that the South Lake Regional Water Initiative (SLRWI) is the sub-regional version of the Central Florida Water Initiative and a partnership between the cities, the County, and the Lake County Water Authority to address the issue of water resources with a sub-regional approach.  He listed their objectives, which were to unify all water authorities, utilities, and citizens into a common task force; conserve and protect their limited and valuable water resources; plan and manage water consumption to meet economic growth; create cost effective and sustainable alternative water supply sources; develop workable ideas through creativity and technology; and educate and communicate about how the water system works.  He emphasized that water can get very expensive for businesses and residents if they do not plan for it, and he opined that the loss of their water resources would result in a loss of a lot of sales tax and tourist development tax dollars that come in from visitors which help to fund infrastructure and schools, which has happened in other places that have lost their water quality and resources.  He pointed out that the population doubled during a ten-year period in just Clermont alone, and demand has been projected to increase almost 60 percent over the next 20 years in South Lake County.  He related that one of the large projects they would be discussing is AWS (Alternative Water Supply), which would bring reuse water out to South Lake County for irrigation rather than to East Central Florida, and he commented that South Lake County is at the top of the aquifer and has the highest recharge.  He indicated that irrigation out of municipal wells and supplies accounts for about 60 percent of all water use, and he would like to meet some of that demand with reuse.  He related that the Water Management District is going to require everyone to be part of an AWS or meet that requirement somehow in order to get consumptive use permits renewed, and conservation measures would also have to be met.  He also specified that it would cost about $1.62 to bring 1,000 gallons of the reuse water from Conserv II to South Lake, but it would cost $11.22 for 1,000 gallons from a pipeline to Yankee Lake in Seminole County along the St. Johns River and $11.42 for 1,000 gallons from a pipeline to Coquina Coast.  He commented that he wanted to do everything he could to keep the cost lower, which is why planning was so important.  He pointed out that the County is not a utility provider, but since the cities provide those services, he hopes they get involved with this initiative as well.

Mr. Alan Oyler mentioned that after he retired from the City of Orlando where he worked on a lot of the City’s water issues for a number of years, he was called by the Water Management District to help them with a problem in South Lake County, and he pointed out that the SJRWMD was committing resources to assist the local communities to come up with solutions to meet their future water supply issues and demands.  He explained that the majority of the water used in the state has traditionally come from the aquifer, which has historically been clean and fairly abundant, but that will be an unsustained use in the future.  He defined an alternative water supply (AWS) as a source used for drinking (potable), industrial, or irrigation purposes aside from the Floridan Aquifer groundwater, which includes rivers, lakes, the ocean, stormwater, and reclaimed water; and he mentioned that although these types of sources have not been traditionally used in our state, they have been used in other areas.  He noted that South Lake’s situation is somewhat unique, because it is located on a sand ridge and has very permeable soils which do not hold onto the water very long, and there were few alternative water supplies that will work in that area, since it was not close to the ocean, large rivers or large lakes and there was not an abundance of brackish groundwater.  He opined that reclaimed water is one of the best available and least expensive alternative water supplies, and he mentioned that they already generated small quantities of that locally for areas that are not on septic tank and are served by a municipal sewer system.  However, he commented that since it takes wastewater from three homes to provide enough irrigation for one home, they will never self-generate enough reclaimed water to satisfy the irrigation demand of the local community, so they will have to import water from someplace else in order to meet projected future demand. 

Mr. Oyler commented that it was up to the utility agencies to find a way to provide that water in the least costly manner, and he related that the South Lake Water Initiative team has identified a number of alternative water sources over the past year that they could potentially take advantage of in South Lake.  He specified that one of those sources was Water Conserv II, which was a project that is owned by the City of Orlando and Orange County located close to the South Lake area off of US 27, and he reported that they were going to try to work with Orlando and Orange County to capture some of that water and bring it into South Lake for irrigation purposes.  He stated that the second source of alternative water would come from the City of Orlando and the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) with a project that could capture water from the St. Johns River, transfer it through the City’s collection system, into the Conserv II treatment plant, and pumped out to South Lake.  They were also exploring a third source through the Water Cooperative of Central Florida, an agency that is comprised of several utility companies, that may have a limited amount of either reclaimed water or drinking water for their use.  He added that Seminole County has built the Yankee Lake Water Treatment Facility at SR 46 and I-4 just outside of Sanford, although there is a lot of controversy associated with that, because it was the first major project to advocate taking water from the St. Johns River to use for water supply, and a recent study indicates that Yankee Lake could yield as much as 40 to 45 million gallons of water a day; however, that water is brackish salt water during certain times of the year because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean on the St. Johns which would necessitate treatment of the water before being used.  He related that the Taylor Creek project located east of Orlando International Airport could potentially tap water from the St. Johns and be able to make it available to the South Lake area or other users.  He displayed a map showing that Conserv II was a mile away from the City of Clermont and was the closest alternative water source that they have available to them, which is why that would be the first choice of the above-mentioned alternatives, and he also pointed out the location of the other alternative water source sites on the map ranging from the OUC site at 9 miles away to the Taylor Creek site at 50 miles away.  He emphasized that construction of transmission lines normally costs about $2 million a mile.

Mr. Oyler pointed out that they will need help with this initiative since they were competing with all of the other communities in Central Florida for these water resources, and the communities in South Lake have joined together into the South Lake Regional Water Initiative in order to pool their resources to develop these alternative sources.  He opined that they need to bring in a high-powered water consultant to allow them to compete with the larger utilities to their east, and the first job for the consultant would be to figure out how much they would need.  He added that the consultant would go over the list of options that they have already created and look for others that they have not thought of yet to add to that list, use the Central Florida Initiative Model to show what the benefits and impact would be of using these various alternative water sources, assist in developing a mitigation strategy to sustain the lakes’ minimum flows and levels, and provide a prioritized list of projects and recommendations as well as some preliminary cost estimates.  He presented a tentative schedule for submitting and returning interlocal funding agreements to pay for the consultant, completion and issuance of the RFQ document, and negotiation of a contract with the consultant by January of 2015 in order for the consultant to initiate the work on this project by February 2015.  He estimated that it would take about six months for the data gathering, modeling, coming up with the recommendations, and estimating the cost of some of those projects.  He explained that the outcome of those findings will be the basis of the list of prioritized options that they would pursue, and the SLRWI partners will then develop cost sharing agreements delineating who will pay for the chosen options and how much it will cost.  He related that it will take about three to five years from the start of design to finished project depending on the size and location, but some smaller projects could be completed in 18 months.  He opined that although there are no quick solutions, there are solutions that could work in the time frame of the anticipated need for it.

panel discussion with question and answer

Commr. Parks pointed out that SLRWI has discussed the topics of alternative water supply, water levels, groundwater withdrawals, and stormwater grants to reduce nutrient loading into the lakes in order to reduce nutrient levels; and he mentioned that one of the upcoming agenda items is to track all of the conservation measures of the cities and the County.

Mr. Tim Louse commented that there was not one particular problem that was causing their lake or water levels to go down.  He emphasized, however, that rainfall affected lake levels and the upper floor aquifer tremendously, since most of the county’s lakes are seepage lakes with no outflow through rivers and streams or inflow, and when the aquifer goes down, the lakes try to refill that, which they should be mindful of as they continue to pump more water out of the aquifer.  He commented that alternative water supply projects would take at least four or five years, but he assured everyone that the SLRWI and SJRWMD were trying to procure enough water for the future.  He stated that one goal they needed to achieve was to make sure they had a sustainable water source at an affordable level in order to foster economic growth, but if they do not act now, they will end up paying a high cost for that water.

Mr. Don Tracy, a resident of Clermont, commented that they have had beautiful water in Winona Lake for many years until 2000, when the lake levels started going down, and he pointed out that the Clermont Chain was recognized as one of the 41 outstanding Florida waters.  He opined that his research has shown that the canals need to be cleaned out, dredged, and maintained.

Mr. Perry responded that the Water Authority has limited ability to do field work such as dredging, and there were some permitting issues related to reaming out environmentally sensitive areas, which they needed to be careful about.  He encouraged Mr. Tracy to discuss with them the lakes he had in mind that needed this kind of maintenance.

Mr. Will Sutter, a resident of Minneola, mentioned that since 60 percent of their problem was irrigation, he suggested the use of rain barrels to collect water.

Commr. Parks replied that it is a feasible solution; however, the amount that they could get from rain barrels would be minimal unless they had a capacity of at least 2,500 to 3,000 gallons, but the cisterns could be incorporated into future development.  He emphasized that they needed to plan in order to make sure that they change the paradigm shift of development regarding water, and he mentioned that they could be looking at reservoir projects on a larger scale to harvest and capture stormwater as well as in conjunction with the reuse options.  He summarized that it would be a portfolio of options which would make a difference in the long run.

Mr. Bucher added that there actually is currently a corporation in the agricultural industry in Lake County that is using a state-of-the art system that will help them be self-sufficient with their water.

Mr. Don Dennis, the IT Director for the City of Clermont and a resident of Clermont, expressed a concern about the data showing how closely the lake levels were tied to rainfall, stating that although he believes rainfall is the leading factor, there was also a period of well- below-average rainfall in the 1980’s according to historic data, but the lake levels did not go down significantly during that time period.  He opined that the data correlates to the level of the aquifer, and the impact of the upper aquifer seems to be a large factor that is driving the level of the lakes.  He commented that he has major reservations about allowing the use of 850 million of gallons per day from the current amount of 800 million.

Ms. Connie Hayes, a resident who lives near Lake Louisa, expressed an opinion that there should not be any irrigation coming from any of their lakes in order to preserve what they have, and she related that she noticed that several homes used 6-inch PVC pipes drawing from the lake to the houses.  She expressed a concern that the statistics given in the presentation may not have been accurate, and she suggested that they look into permitting and limiting usage of wells.

Mr. Bartol responded that the Water Management District does regulate non-domestic use of water, but they cannot regulate wells and other domestic use per Florida statute.  He noted, however, that they can regulate times and amounts of irrigation, and they have a threshold of six inches or greater.

Mr. Peter Brown, a resident of South Lake County, noted that massive amounts of water that used to flow around his home has completely stopped, and he opined that the sand mining has decimated the flow of the aquifer in that area.  He mentioned that he has reached out to the Army Corp of Engineers, which was currently looking at this situation, and he asked why the County is letting companies from out of the area mine in the Green Swamp and the heart of the aquifer.

Commr. Parks offered to come to his area so that Mr. Brown could show him what he was referring to, and he commented that there were some very serious issues regarding mining that they needed to look at such as water withdrawals, traffic, and effects on adjacent lands.

Ms. Ginger D’Amico, a resident of Clermont who lives on Lake Winona, commented that she did not understand how the SJRWMD could allow a company as large as Niagara to come in and take 484,000 gallons of water a day out of their aquifer, and she asked if Niagara would have to pay $11.84 for 1,000 gallons and if they currently pay anything for the water they are taking.

Mr. Bartol responded that currently all the water users in the state get free water, since there was no tax on water, and the water resources of the state are divvied out according to state water law.  He pointed out that bottled water withdrawals are less than a half of a percent of the total amount of withdrawals, and he opined that the issue is that they have an obligation to provide water for agriculture, public supply, irrigation, and those kinds of water uses as long as they comply with the rules and regulations; however, he noted that it would be difficult in the future to get water use permits, although they are obligated to protect existing over new uses.

Ms. D’Amico asked why the County is considering adding 44,000 new homes in South Lake County if they cannot support the people they have now.

Commr. Parks commented that he believes Niagara should contribute to an alternative water supply project if they are affecting their water resources, and he emphasized that the Lake County BCC does not issue permits to Niagara and does not have any more say in that process than anyone else.  He explained that it would take a statute change at the state level to change that situation, since currently water bottling plants are a permitted water use under the statute.  He related that the South Lake Sector Plan involves planning for 16,000 acres from Highway 50 to almost the Four Corners area, and he pointed out that the existing land uses and entitlements provide for 48,000 new residents in that area in piecemeal growth patterns unless they plan better for growth than they have had in the past, which is the goal of that Sector Plan.

Mr. Chris Davis, a resident who lives near Lake Minneola, related that he often sees numerous sod trucks backed up to the canal on Lake Minneola pumping out 10,000 gallons of water, and he was concerned that these trucks are not being monitored in any way, even though the residents are limited as to how often they can water their lawns.  He asked who was responsible for letting this happen with the condition that their lakes are in right now.

Mr. Bartol indicated that this is the first time he has heard of that issue, and he believed that that could be an unregulated or below threshold use of water.  He assured Mr. Davis that he would look into that and get back to him individually about where that threshold is.

Mr. Oyler added that he used to run the wastewater department for the City of Orlando, and he dealt with the opposite problem of people draining what they had pumped from their septic tank into the sewer system.  He commented that it was very hard to catch individuals who were taking advantage of a slip point in the rules to do those types of things.  He elaborated that there is a level at which the Water Management District does not get involved in consumption, because it is a large jurisdictional organization; however, the way the Florida water law is written makes it difficult to bring some of that regulatory authority to a local level.  He believed that as the water use continues to get more dire and local governments are looking for more control over that, there should be more discussion between local governments and water management districts about local governments being able to regulate water use within their community by setting certain standards for irrigation wells, drawing water from lakes, or methods for conservation, with the provision that they were working within guidelines that were established by the District.  He suggested that Mr. Bartol, the District’s legal staff, the Board, and city officials talk to their legislative delegation and ombudsmen for the District about getting some of that regulatory authority brought to a local level so that they would have the tools be able to deal with scenarios described by Mr. Davis with the threat of fines or revocation of business licenses, especially when it gets to the point where they seriously need to regulate water use.

Mr. Darrell Reeves, a resident of Clermont, reiterated a concern about letting a private for-profit company make a lot of money by using up their local water and shipping it all over the country while residents have to deal with the low water levels and water shortages in the area.

Mr. Oyler responded that the Water Management District was created by the laws of Florida to permit water use, and they are not allowed by law to discriminate against agriculture, public utilities, private business or to make home use more important than commercial use.  He explained, however, that the District makes every applicant go through a process to demonstrate that there is a public benefit, that there would be no environmental harm, and that there were no other sources of water that the applicant could use.  He added that the CFWI process will help regulate and limit that more.  He pointed out that the only way that they could currently exclude the water bottling use is a change in the law, and he suggested that everyone ask their legislative representatives to work on a legislative effort to change the law that the District is bound by.

Mr. Paul Sawyer, a resident who lives on Lake Minnehaha, related that he had put a chart in the lake which indicated that the levels had increased despite a shortage of rainfall.

Mr. Perry explained that there is storage in the basins, and it takes a while for the basins to become saturated enough to drain into the lakes.  He elaborated that lately they have had enough water to offset the evaporation and withdrawals from the lakes; however, he opined the absence of tropical activity lately could indicate a change in weather patterns that will ultimately affect lake levels.

Mr. John Rockledge, a resident of South Lake County who lives near a canal, stated that when he called the Water Management District to ask them to dredge the canal and clear out the sand bars, he was informed that those who attempt to do so near the lake could face a $26,000 fine and the confiscation of all their equipment.  He opined that a shortage which ultimately results in a fee charged for water will be bad for tourism and employment opportunities.

Ms. Linda Bystrak, a resident of Leesburg, President of the Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society, and Lake Soil and Water Conservation District member, cited an Orlando Sentinel article which stated that 55 million tourists visited Central Florida last year and that the Governor has made it a goal to increase the number of tourists who visit the state, and she commented that they needed to take water consumption by those tourists into account as well.  She explained that there is a common depression underneath the City of Orlando and all the other natural areas including Lake County which develops where the water is removed, which will get larger as more tourists and residents move into the area.  She mentioned that when New York City was faced with a similar problem, it started putting in low flush toilets in every home rather than drilling new wells; and the Southwest Florida Management District started a program called FARMS which matches the Department of Agriculture money for farmers to improve their irrigation systems within that water management district; however, she pointed out that the SJRWMD removed all the funding for their mobile irrigation labs and for agricultural activities that involved improving irrigation for the farmers in this area that could have saved 90 percent of their water use on 47,000 acres of land in Lake County.

Ms. Elaine Renick, a South Lake resident  and former County Commissioner, related that there had been a Lake County Water Alliance which included elected officials from every city, a technical group of experts, and water utilities, several years ago which paid for a consultant and met monthly.  She noted that there was a report done by that committee which is public record and available through the County which found that no one was able to afford the costs of the alternative water sources and which would result in a high cost for water and higher taxes.  She commented that the findings of that study emphasized that they had to conserve water and look at protecting the water recharge area and the aquifer.  She opined that they would not be able to afford the alternative water sources, and no one would want to have to pay for it.

Mr. Oyler mentioned that he used that report as part of his evaluation of alternative water supplies, and he explained that the model has been changed between 2006 and today by the CFWI effort.  He agreed with Ms. Renick that these alternative water supply sources will cost this area a lot of money, which was why they were trying to go to Conserve II first.  He added that they have to be able to show what the results would be in the new modeling in order to be able to convince Orange County, OUC, and the City of Orlando to bring the Conserve II water to South Lake, and they needed to be able to show those partners that there will be no harm to their consumptive use permit, which requires the effort of the groundwater modelers to present different scenarios, including whether using the water for irrigation in Clermont will have the same positive effect as using that water in other areas.  He assured her that the work that was done previously is valuable, since it helps them to identify some of those sources and where they could look, but they also have to make sure this is a positive situation for potential future partners and everyone who participates, which is one of the things that the water consultant will help them do.  He specified that the study will cost about $250,000 to $300,000, and they have asked the state legislature to earmark some monies for this area; also, he indicated that the Water Management District may have some grant money that they could award to help with this effort.  He commented that the vast majority of the withdrawals from the aquifer today come from all of the utility agencies in Orange County, and they were closer to those alternative water supplies than Lake County is.  He opined that there needs to be some consideration for proximity in the state to those alternative water supplies in the consideration of granting groundwater permits in the future for those areas that have other resources that are much more available to them than South Lake County has.

Mr. Terry Pet, a South Lake resident, stated that he believes the question that was previously asked regarding sand mines was an important one, and he opined that there is a direct correlation between what is happening in the corridor between Big Creek and Little Creek and the water levels.  He mentioned that he also believes that the 2004 water levels indicated a false high after the hurricanes, because the dams in Cherry Lake at that time caused the water in Lake Minneola to back up for the first time, which also caused high levels of tannic acid.  He commented that the lakes would be lower today if it was not for that situation.  He asked if any official present has been lobbied by the sand mining companies or has accepted political contributions from them.

Commr. Parks opined that Lake County had the most stringent sand mining regulations in the state that he was aware of, and he offered to research what the effects of the previous sand mining permits were.  He also commented that it was something they should watch, and he disclosed that he has received funds from mining companies, including Florida Rock.

Ms. Peggy Cox, a resident of Clermont and District 1 Trustee for the Lake County Water Authority, clarified that sod company trucks and DOT trucks could withdraw up to 100,000 gallons a day per truck from the Chain of Lakes, and he suggested that the SJRWMD look very seriously at this activity of those companies, who all have consumptive use permits at their places of business to get this water, but it is more convenient for them to travel to the nearest public access such as a boat ramp or park to suck out water into their tanker truck.  She commented that the cumulative effect of this activity could be considerable, especially when construction starts increasing again, and she stated that the real problem is that they have impaired lakes which are below their regulatory levels or do not meet their MFL.  She opined that there should be a rule prohibiting anyone from withdrawing water in that manner from any water body which is below its regulatory level, which would give Code Enforcement the authority to stop that activity.

Ms. Cindy Davis, a resident of Lake Minneola Shores, mentioned that she has been waiting for a phone call from someone from the SJRWMD since October 9.

Mr. Travis Bonjorn, a resident of Clermont, reiterated that sand mines were a huge problem.  He also opined that the Lake Lowery water diversion was significant and needed to be strongly looked out, since he believed that it compromised their water to the extent that the Clermont Chain of Lakes will be nothing but stagnant ponds.  He mentioned that he also talked to the Water Authority about putting a natural levy at the 33 bridge to help trap that water, although the sand mine which is in the way would cause the water to go out to the ocean.  He concluded that he believes it is time that something gets done.

Commr. Parks stated that his intention is to have a summit every year to discuss what they have done during the year to address the issues they have brought up, and he indicated an interest in finding out more about the hydrologic alterations to the land in the upper basin such as the Lake Lowery issue, although he still had reservations about that issue.  He mentioned that the property rights of some land owners may make it difficult to find where alterations may have occurred.  He encouraged everyone to ask their cities to participate in the stormwater cooperative grants with the Lake County Water Authority to address the nutrient issue and to support their city officials’ involvement with the South Lake Water Initiative.  He commented that everyone needed to be proactive regarding planning and addressing the water resources issue, and he also encouraged everyone to contact the County Commissioners to let them know that they support the County Commission becoming a Groundwater Guardian Community with the Groundwater Foundation to promote and stress education about their groundwater resources.

Representative Larry Metz announced that as Chairman of the Lake County Legislative Delegation he has scheduled a workshop on water issues for Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. which would be held at the Lake County Administration Building in Tavares, including a focus on legislative oversight of the various entities locally that are involved in this issue.  He assured everyone that he would take that opportunity to give some of the information from this water summit to the delegation for their benefit, and he invited anyone to contact his office if they need any further information, which is located in the Cherry Lake Safety Annex in Groveland or email him at larry.metz@myfloridahouse.gov.  He commented that local legislators want to inform the legislative delegation about the issues involving water policy and regulation in Lake County, and he asked the public to inform them so that they could be more helpful to the community and could support it proactively.  He encouraged the public to come to their workshop.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the workshop was adjourned at 8:00 p.m.

 

_________________________________

leslie campione, chairman

 

 

ATTEST:

 

 

 

________________________________

NEIL KELLY, CLERK