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Water Online: Desalination A Must For Florida, Official Says

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A Florida official is calling on his state to invest in seawater desalination as a way to combat water scarcity.

According to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the Sunshine State needs to consider options beyond conservation and reuse.

“Drought-proof water supplies, like seawater desalination, should be more aggressively pursued and included in water planning as future sources of Florida’s water supply. The collection and storage of water for groundwater recharge and as an alternative source of water should continue to be encouraged with incentives to attract private landowner participation,” he said in a recent editorial.

State studies back up the idea that Florida needs a wider range of solutions.

“Florida cannot meet its future demand for water by relying solely on the development of traditional ground and surface water sources. The state’s water demand is expected to grow by greater than 25% to about 8.7 billion gallons per day by the year 2025,” according to a report by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Currently, seawater is not widely used in Florida.

“Only a few plants draw their source water from coastal seawater. The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Facility is the only large-scale reverse osmosis facility in the state using a coastal surface water source,” the report said.

Putnam also called for more equality in the treatment of Florida’s diverse set of water issues.

“There is an extraordinary bias to the south at the expense of the springs and Apalachicola Bay,” he recently said in Gannett’s New-Press.

The Florida legislature is considering spending $220 million to redirect water and reduce pollutants flowing from Lake Okeechobee, according to the report.

But Putnam wants them to look at the bigger picture.

“That includes the challenges of pollutants entering the state’s springs, the St. Johns River and Tampa Bay, reducing pollution entering Lake Okeechobee from the north and the declining conditions of Apalachicola Bay in the Panhandle,” the report said.

Putnam is concerned about how changing conditions in the state will affect Florida’s water supply, and eventually, the economy.

“As our population continues to grow — this year we will surpass New York as the third most populated state in the nation — pressure on our fragile water supplies will increase,” he said in his editorial.

For more on how other states are approaching desalination, check out previous coverage on Water Online.

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