Sarasota County staff encouraging water conservation, with dry season beginning

Through September of this year, rainfall amount down by more than 6 inches

This is a view of an area of Miakka River State Park, taken in 2015. Image courtesy UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County

About 10 days after the chair of the Sarasota County Commission assured the public that the region has sufficient drinking water resources, the staff of the Sarasota County Public Utilities Department asked community residents to conserve water.

In a county news release, Public Utilities Department Director Mike Mylett also noted the ample water supply for customers in the unincorporated areas of the county. However, the release pointed out, “[A]s Florida moves into the dry season, conservation will help ease any potential impacts to the system.”

“Our customers do not need to worry about a water shortage. We are simply asking them to partner with us by using best conservation practices,” Mylett said in the release.

The Peace River Manasota Regional Supply Authority also has announced that its water treatment facility is being affected by rehabilitation work that began in the spring, an Oct. 21 news release noted. That facility is operating at 75% of capacity, the release said.

The Authority serves Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and the City of North Port.

Moreover, that release noted, water treatment facilities belonging to two of the Authority’s customers “were taken off line for emergency repairs, and those repairs are being delayed by the availability of parts and materials.”

“This combined impact of reduced treatment, distribution capacity and a rapidly increasing water demand are reasons for the voluntary water conservation request,” the release added.

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

The Authority’s new executive director, Mike Coates, did point out in the release that interconnections with Manatee County, the City of Punta Gorda and the Englewood Water District are “helping to make up the production capacity shortfall.”

Coates also noted that the Authority has 6.5 billion gallons of water in its reservoir system.

In its executive summary regarding hydrologic conditions for September, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) reported that its southern counties — including Sarasota — “received an average of 6.93 inches of rainfall, equivalent to the 51st percentile of the historical September record.”

That executive summary also noted that the annual “wet season” is considered to be the period from June 1 through Sept. 30. The southern region of SWFMD’s territory “received an average rainfall accumulation of 31.96 inches” during the wet season this year, the summary added. That was 0.29 inches above the mean of 31.67 inches, the executive summary said, and it was classified as “normal.”

Along with Sarasota, the southern counties are Manatee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highlands.

However, the data specific to Sarasota County showed that the rainfall amount from January through September was 38.74 inches, compared to the historical average of 45.55 inches for the same period. Further, rainfall in Sarasota County from October 2020 through September of this year was 3.46 inches lower than the 12-month historical average of 52.64 inches.

This is rainfall data from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Image courtesy SWFWMD

The executive summary did point out that, in September, groundwater data showed that the regional levels of the Upper Floridan aquifer “were at the upper-end of the normal range in the central and southern counties.”

A document provided to the board of directors of the Peace River Manasota Regional Supply Authority for their Oct. 1 meeting said that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projected near normal rainfall for Southwest Florida from September through November.

However, NOAA also has forecast the probability that La Nina conditions will persist through the winter. The report added, “La Nina development in the fall and winter typically brings warmer drier conditions to the Florida Peninsula.”

Lee Hayes Byron, director of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (UF/IFAS) Extension and Sustainability for Sarasota County, added in the county release that “year-round water conservation is also vital and can help mitigate potential impacts during the dry season.”

“It’s important to pay attention to outdoor activities like following watering restrictions and ensuring your irrigation system is functioning properly, as well as indoor activities like watching for toilet leaks,” she said.

Water conservation tips may be found by visiting this link.

This is among the water-saving information the UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability staff provides. Image courtesy UF/IFAS

For additional information, call the county Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit