The Florida Senate has recommended fully funding a $300,000 study to find an alternative water supply for south Lake County. Now, the proposal must go back to the state House of Representatives for final approval.
At the same time, the municipalities of Groveland, Minneola, Mascotte and Montverde recently agreed to share in the cost of a consultant to address the issue in the south part of the county.
The municipalities are all part of the South Lake Regional Water Initiative (SLRWI), which also includes the city of Clermont, South Lake Chamber of Commerce and the county.
Clermont and the county are expected to vote on the same measure in the coming weeks.
There will be a demand for 300 million gallons of water a day in 2035, but the Floridan aquifer, the current traditional source, will be able to provide only about 50 million gallons, according to water experts. Water experts and officials have sounded the alarm that an alternative water supply must be found.
Alan Oyler, consultant for St. Johns River Water Management District, who is assisting the SLRWI, said the agreements passed at each city council are a milestone.
“This in my mind sends a strong signal to the Water Management District and other participants that south Lake is getting their act together,” he said. “The communities are working together and cooperating to develop a solution.”
Working in conjunction with the Central Florida Water Initiative, which is developing a unified process to address Central Florida’s current long-term water supply needs, the SLRWI must come up with $300,000 to fund a study to explore alternative water sources in the region.
Forming a partnership two years ago, the SLRWI addresses “regional solutions in th e areas of reclaimed water distribution, minimum flows and levels of the region’s lakes and rivers, and alternative water supplies and conservation.”
Commissioner Sean Parks, who founded the SLRWI with Groveland Mayor Tim Loucks, said the agreements are a “milestone and model for regional cooperation.”
Loucks said finding an alternative water supply takes a collaborative effort.
“We are all drawing from the same pool of water ... so whatever the City of Groveland withdraws affects the City of Clermont,” he said. “We are all planning up to 2035 to ensure that we can continue to grow. The study is so important to that happening.”
Minneola Mayor Pat Kelley said the agreements are critical because “it is important we look to the future and make sure that our water needs in south Lake County are met.”
Indeed, Mascotte Mayor Tony Rosado said the collaborative agreements will help the city of Mascotte save money in the future.
“We need to start now if we plan to conserve water,” Rosado said.
If the state allocates funding for the project, the consultant could be hired earlier than the projected timeline of October, Oyler said.
Currently, the SLRWI is exploring the idea of taking water from the lower Floridan aquifer, which would require some treatment. The vast majority of water is pumped from the upper Floridan aquifer.
Another possible water supply for south Lake is Water Conserv II, the largest water reuse project in Orange County. But officials say there is no real impetus from Conserv II officials to provide water resources to south Lake because of their own needs.