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SFWMD Hears Options To Store Lake O Water Underground

Sunrise over Lake Okeechobee near the City of Okeechobee.
South Florida Water Management District PowerPoint Presentation Image
Sunrise over Lake Okeechobee near the City of Okeechobee.

South Florida Water managers heard presentations recently on their options for underground water storage. These are possible solutions to excess fresh water that sometimes fills Lake Okeechobee, leading to harmful discharges in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. Experts say one choice is more ideal than another.

The South Florida Water Management District’s top hydro geologist Robert Verrastro said building reservoirs is not the only way Florida can store extra water from Lake Okeechobee. First, he told the district's Water Resources Advisory Commission about Aquifer Storage Recovery, or ASR.

"It is the idea that we can use wells that are drilled into the Floridan aquifer about 1,000 feet underground," said Verrastro. "And we can pump the water into a confined aquifer... when there are times of excess water."

So basically, store water underground. John Cassani is with Calusa Waterkeeper, the local chapter of the international nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance. He said ASR is potentially a “good thing” because that stored water would be available during the dry season to spread around wherever needed.

"I’m not even sure it's considered a preferred alternative at this point but I think it's a valid alternative—I think we'd probably support ASR," said Cassani. 

And then there’s the second option Robert Verrastro presented to the district: Send water 3,000 feet through a deep injection well into what’s called the boulder zone.

"They have higher capacity than ASR wells... like two-to-three times the capacity," said Verrastro. 

But John Cassani with the water alliance said the downfall of this method is that the water is not stored and disappears.

"So a couple issues there: What's the fate and effect of this water? And perhaps there's some controversy that we're losing a resource that could be valuable later on," said Cassani. 

Water managers did not vote on anything in particular. They’re just weighing their options right now. And Florida Senate President Joe Negron filed a bill to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage.

John Cassani said everyone’s just balancing alternatives on what to do with all this extra water in the state. 

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of All Things Consideredfor WGCU News.