Utilities in Polk County want to block Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s expansion plans
The regional authority that supplies water to the counties of Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto and the city of North Port is attempting to get a lawsuit filed against it by seven government entities in Polk County dismissed or settled.
The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority is a coalition comprised of Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties that dates back to 1982. Its mission is to interconnect utility systems to ensure water keeps flowing across jurisdictional boundaries.
From its treatment plant on the Peace River, which it acquired from a private utility in 1991, the authority now supplies about 28.2 million gallons daily to three of its four county members and to non-member North Port.
Although it does not need the additional supply now, the authority seeks a permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to create a third reservoir at its treatment plant in DeSoto County and increase its withdrawals from the river during the rainy season from a maximum of 120 million gallons a day to 258 million gallons a day. Most of its withdrawals are stored in underground aquifer systems and then pumped out during the dry season to meet its commitments to customers.
In May, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative (joined by Polk County and the cities of Bartow, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Wauchula and Winter Haven) filed litigation against the Peace River authority and the water management district. The plaintiffs want the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings to block the water management district from issuing the water use permit.
Utilities in Polk County currently rely on ground water and do not withdraw from the Peace River. Yet, according to their complaint, “traditional groundwater supplies may be insufficient to satisfy the existing and future water supply demand of Polk County in a sustainable manner.”