POLK COUNTY – Polk Regional Water Cooperative attorney Ed de la Parte filed five eminent domain court petitions March 11 seeking to temporarily seize some private property in Lakeland for well testing.

Experts say there is not enough clean, easy to reach fresh water in the Upper Floridan Aquifer to meet future water needs and that other sources of water must be found. County leaders are exploring the feasibility of using salt water in the Lower Floridan Aquifer under Polk County to meet future needs.

“Team One” engineers have already built two sets of Lower Floridan Aquifer (LFA) wells in between Lake Wales and Frostproof along Walk In Water Road, with a plan to build around a dozen more along the Lake Wales Ridge.

A third set of LFA wells has already been built in Lakeland, just east the Pepperidge Farms plant and south of Interstate 4. “Team One” is the group of engineers that won a $23 million contract to study future water supply options.

Testing of the LFA wells near Frostproof for water quality is nearly complete. Starting in June, the PRWC board wants to start testing the quality of LFA water under Lake- land. To do so, they applied for, and were approved for, a Southwest Florida Water Management District permit to pump 15.4 million gallons of saltwater under Lakeland.

Because it would not be legal to dump so much much salt water on to the ground, PRWC staff applied to dilute this salt water with some normal well water and then let the 20 or so million gallons flow from the test site to Lake Parker, a distance of around two miles.

PRWC staff sent requests to around a dozen land owners in between the test site and Lake Parker seeking temporary use of the land to create a stream so the test water could flow into Lake Parker.

Five did not respond and became parties in eminent domain petitions. Four are currently negotiating settlements and another four landowners are in early negotiations, PRWC staff said.

Judge Steven Selph will preside over the eminent domain petitions beginning May 21.

Also discussed by the PRWC board March 20 was the water quality from the salt water under the Lake Wales Ridge.

A Team One engineer told the PRWC board that reverse osmosis will get 75 to 80 percent of the total dissolved solids and sulfate out of the salt water pumped out of the LFA under the Lake Wales Ridge. The reverse osmosis equipment is currently estimated to cost $320 million. The Team One engineer said it would cost more to build additional treatment infrastructure to make that water clean enough to drink. The estimated cost of a desalination plant in Lakeland is $166 million.

In addition, the PRWC board wants to spend $120 million recharging the aquifer around Peace Creek, and to build a summer stormwater reservoir at a cost of around $150 million. All four projects are estimated to provide around 60 million gallons per day of additional water supply.

That is double the 30 million gallons of additional water per day that Team One engineers have said the county needs by 2040. On March 20, one Team One engineer attempted to lobby the board not to cancel any of the four projects, suggesting that by 2068 an additional 162 million gallons per day will be needed.

At the onset of the PRWC meeting March 20, two Team One spokespeople said conservation efforts could solve the potential water shortage if the public took advantage of conservation programs to replace old shower heads, toilets and irrigation systems.

Check out //www.prwcwater.org/conservation/rebates- and-incentives for more information about how you can help save water.

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