The regional water source for three counties received an unprecedented 50-year permit to continue operating.
The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority announced its achievement on Feb. 27. The permit comes from the South Florida Water Management District and carries the authority through February of 2068.
“Florida will be a very different place 50 years from now, but one thing will be exactly the same,” the authority said in a written statement. “The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority will harvest water ever-mindful of protecting the river and flows to Charlotte Harbor downstream, just as they always have.”
No other district in the state has a 50-year permit, according to the authority’s general counsel, Doug Manson.
Authority Director Patrick Lehman said the authority decided for a 50-year permit, because it is planning to invest in another large reservoir as well as underground storage within the next five to 10 years.
“Building a reservoir is a lot of public investment,” Lehman said. “The reservoir will be in place for decades.”
Florida may see more water districts applying for longer permits, Lehman said, as the original water infrastructure around the state starts to wear out or prove insufficient.
State regulators had to be assured that the authority would be a good steward of the water supply, Lehman said, which means a good environmental monitoring system. The authority is one of many regulators who monitor water quality in a region that includes many phosphate mines, Lehman acknowledged.
For example, he said, authority staff frequently double check testing samples sent in by Mosaic.
Four counties sit on this authority board—Charlotte, DeSoto, Sarasota and Manatee. Manatee does not currently get water, because it has its own 50-year-old reservoir. But they may in the future.
The authority draws only surface water, from Peace River, which it stores underground for use during the annual dry season. State regulators are discouraging increasing draws from the underground water table, Lehman said, due to increasing problems with salt water intrusion. The Peace River authority does not draw from the underground water table.
The authority began working on this application two years ago, Lehman said. They finished it a year ago, but were stalled by a threatened lawsuit from Polk County. Polk County has now resolved its issues with the authority, which involved assurances that it would be able to share the Peace River water supply in the future.