February the first month in Peace River Authority history for water demand to exceed 1 billion gallons

Need for development of extra supply of 27 million gallons a day projected over next 20 years

This is a graph presented to the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority Board of Directors on April 6. Image courtesy of the Authority

February was the first month ever for the water demand from the four counties and single city that are customers of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority to exceed “1 billion gallons,” Sarasota County Commission Chair Alan Maio reported to his fellow commissioners on April 12.

Along with Sarasota County, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and the City of North Port are the members of the Authority.

According to a graphic in the packet for the Authority’s April 6 board meeting, the total customer water use in February was 1.047 billion gallons. That averaged out to 80.66 million gallons per day (mgd).

As Maio characterized the situation: “Eighty percent of the regional supply is currently utilized.”

“It is the dry season,” he pointed out.

A report in the April 6 Authority board packet says that rainfall in the Peace River Basin for the past 13 months totaled 45.4 inches, which was 5.4 inches below the historical level.

This rainfall distribution map, showing the area governed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, was included in the Peace River Authority board’s April 6 agenda packet as well. Image courtesy of the Authority

Having served as chair of the Authority’s board of directors for four years, Maio often provides updates to his colleagues after he attends meetings of the Authority board.

Maio added that the water demand was about 30.4 million gallons a day (mgd) in February, with total Authority capacity at 84.43 mgd for that month.

In March, demand rose to 31.76 mgd, an Authority document shows.

Another graphic in the April 6 meeting packet said that the regional average demand for water from the organization had climbed from an average of 64.78 mgd in 2012 to 77.71 mgd in 2021.

Sarasota County’s water demand totaled 22.99 mgd in February, a third graphic pointed out. Of that amount, 13.5 mgd came from the Authority, with the county supplying 5.43 mgd.

This graph presented to the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority Board of Directors on April 6 shows water demand trends for Sarasota County. Image courtesy of the Authority

Sarasota County uses water from Manatee County to supplement those sources.

Another report in the April 6 packet for the Authority board members explained that, based on customer projections, demand “for the 20-year planning period [shows] requested delivery of 55.8 MGD (average day) from the Authority in 2042, approximately 21.1 MGD more than the current Contract allocation of 34.7 MGD.”

Therefore, the report continued, “Projections show a need for an additional 27 MGD in new supply development in the next 20 years.” That is expected to be met, the report explained, through the Authority’s customers’ development of new sources and Authority expansion projects, including a third reservoir. Staff says the Authority should be able to meet the demands for the next two decades, the report points out.

For example, in Sarasota County, the Public Utilities Department staff is working on an expansion of the Carlton Water Treatment Plant near Venice, which would increase its output from approximately 8.1 mgd to about 12 mgd.

Maio also told his fellow commissioners this week that the Authority has a 299-day supply of water in its two reservoirs, with the rainy season expected to begin shortly.

The third reservoir, for which planning has been underway for several years, originally was scheduled to come online in 2030, he continued. It will have a 9-billion-gallon capacity, Maio added. However, thanks to the work of “great staff, great consultants,” he said the new schedule calls for it to be in service by mid-2027.

This graph presented to the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority Board of Directors on April 6 shows trends in regional water demand. Image courtesy of the Authority

Maio then reported that the Authority, too, is dealing with rising costs. For example, he said, the most recent monthly bill from Florida Power & Light Co. totaled about $175,000. “It will pass $200,000 for the next month,” he predicted.

The cost of chemicals the Authority uses has doubled in some cases, he noted. The expense for most of the chemicals is up 35%, Maio added.

The Authority’s budget for the current fiscal year shows that it had budgeted $6,499,495 for water treatment chemicals. That would rise to $8,643,275 in the tentative budget for the 2023 fiscal year.

Additionally, the Authority’s tentative 2023 fiscal year budget calls for an increase of 7 cents per 1,000 gallons of water for its customers— from 82 cents in this fiscal year to 89 cents in 2023.

This year, Sarasota County’s expense is budgeted at $14,362,391. That would rise to $15,112,667 in the 2023 fiscal year.