One thing is for certain: Manatee County will need more water one day.
But whether that additional water will come from the county increasing its production or buying water from another source such as the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority has yet to be determined. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said an analysis will be done to see which option is less expensive.
“We are going to try to stretch out what we have as much as possible,” Mark Simpson, the county’s water division manager, told commissioners Tuesday.
With a sufficient supply for the next 15-25 years, the county currently provides all of the water needed for county customers, which is 112,500 connections, in addition to providing water to Sarasota County.
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“The cheapest water that we have is the water we already have,” Simpson said. “Because of growth, we will eventually need new supplies. We need to work on conservation efforts.”
The county’s Water Supply Facilities Work Plan, which projects the county’s demands for a 10-year period, will be presented to the commission by the end of March. The plan will also develop a schedule of necessary capital improvements.
“When you develop a new water supply capacity, if you don’t have the customers to use all of that water, then all of your other customers pay a higher rate,” Simpson said.
By increasing the supply from the East County Wellfield, then the development of the Buffalo Creek Wellfield, which is a $35 million investment, can be delayed, Simpson said.
“It’s a much lower cost for our customers to be able to do that as opposed to build,” he said. “It allows us to push that new needed investment beyond 10-year work plan in 2017.”
Stemming from legislation and Southwest Florida Water Management District rules, a minimum flow could be set on the Manatee River, which would result in less water for public supply, according to Tuesday’s presentation.
The county plans on working “cooperatively with District to minimize impact and garner financial support to add additional supply to regain lost reliability,” according to the presentation.
“They are working with us to try to minimize that impact,” Simpson said.
Southwest Florida Water Management District is also proposing to construct a test injection well to recharge the aquifer below the Flatford Swamp Preserve property, which is located on the Myakka River.
“If District proceeds with test project, they should err on side of caution and test for as many potential water quality concerns, in injected water, monitoring wells and recovered water as possible,” according to the presentation.
There will be a lot of changes in Manatee County in the next 20 years with water being a “very, very important one,” Hunzeker said.
“This is long range planning,” he said. “These are issues we are planning to bring to you over 2017 year in more specificity and asking for your direction.”