Sarasota County and 3 neighboring counties using 70% of available water, county commissioner reports

Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority working to have another 6-billion-gallon reservoir filled by 2030

An aerial photo shows facilities of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority. Image from the Authority website

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority is using 70% of its available capacity to supply customers, including Sarasota County residents, Sarasota County Commissioner Alan Maio reported just before the end of 2019.

Conservative estimates indicate the Authority will be able to meet demands for the next 20 years, he added during the commission’s Dec. 10, 2019 meeting.

The Authority’s two reservoirs and aquifer storage and recovery system wells (ASRs) had close to 15 billion gallons of water at the end of November 2019, he pointed out. “In the next 20 years, we’ll need another supply.”

Maio represents the Sarasota Commission on the Authority board. The previous week, he added, the latter group approved bringing a third reservoir online by 2030. That structure will hold 6 billion gallons, he said.

“It takes 10 years to get these things permitted, designed, built,” he explained, referring to reservoirs. Then, he continued, it takes two years to fill a new reservoir.

After the third reservoir has been filled, Maio said, “That gives us a 50-year supply.”

A graphic shows details about annual rainfall for the Peace River Basin. Image courtesy Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority

Not coincidentally, he pointed out, the Authority last year received a 50-year permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to double the Authority’s extraction of water from the Peace River “at high-volume times.”

The Authority’s website says, “When the Peace River is running high and full,” between 5 million and 15 million gallons of “clean drinking water are injected into the ASR from the Authority’s water treatment facility. During dry periods, we can recover [5 million to 17 million gallons] through the reservoirs — leaving the Peace River undisturbed.”

The Authority explains on its website that, since 1991, it has been providing drinking water to more than 900,000 people in Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto and Manatee counties. “Every day, we supply an average of 26 million gallons of water … to our members,” the website adds.

Materials provided to the Authority board members in advance of their Dec. 4, 2019 meeting showed the November water demand was 27.99 million gallons per day.

This graphic provides data about the flow of the Peace River. Image courtesy Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority

The University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) estimates that the population of Sarasota County grew 12.3% from 2010 to 2019. That is just a bit lower than the 12.8% climb for the population statewide during the same period. BEBR projects the total number of Floridians will rise from 21,517,600 this year to 24,340,500 by 2030.

For Sarasota County, BEBR estimated the 2019 population at 426,275. It expects the number to grow to 484,300 by 2030 — a 13.6% jump — and then to 523,700 by 2040. The latter figure would represent a hike of almost 23% from the 2019 count.

A BEBR graphic shows the fastest-growing counties in Florida over the past years. Image from the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research

One representative from each of the four counties comprises the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s Board of Directors. The chair is Elton A. Langford of Arcadia, which is in DeSoto County.

The Authority does have connections to other water systems for emergency situations, its website notes: the City of North Port, the City of Punta Gorda and the Englewood Water District.

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