The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) works hard to back storm water projects and always prioritizes conservation efforts. Here Senior Communications Coordinator Amy Harroun discusses the district’s various efforts with WWD Associate Editor Elizabeth Lisican.
Elizabeth Lisican: How does SWFWMD help local governments with their storm water projects?
Amy Harroun: Flood protection and storm water management infrastructure projects funded by the district represent a wide variety of issues in water resource management. The district’s cooperative funding program seeks to provide a 50% cost-share with local governments on projects that address flood protection issues on a watershed basis. These projects will result in the development of more than 223 million gallons per day (mgd) of reclaimed water supplies and 151 mgd of new water resources. All conservation and reclaimed water projects include education programs, which stress the value and benefits of efficient and effective water use regardless of the source.
The district also regulates new development through the Environmental Resource Permitting (ERP) program. Permitting criteria includes both water quantity and water quality elements of storm water management. The ERP Basis of Review addresses overdrainage and water conservation and states that, where practicable, systems shall be designed to maintain water tables at the highest possible level, preserve site environmental values, not waste freshwater through overdrainage, preserve site groundwater recharge characteristics and retain water on site for future use.
Lisican: Conservation seems to be a major prioriy at SWFWMD. How does the agency work to promote reuse and sustainability?
Harroun: Maximizing reclaimed water use is critical to meeting our mission of managing water and related natural resources. The district provides financial, educational and technical assistance as well as regulatory encouragement to develop reclaimed water systems. This includes funding the planning, design and construction of reclaimed water projects. Since 1987, the district has budgeted more than $327 million in matching grants for more than 300 reclaimed water projects.
The district continues to promote water conservation through its cooperative funding program by providing technical, regulatory and educational assistance to utilities. Since 1991, the district has provided a total of $24 million in funding for 108 conservation projects. Together these projects have conserved 14.4 mgd.
Lisican: How does the district mitigate the detrimental impacts of wet-weather events in its communities?
Harroun: Emergency management, preparedness and response to a major weather-based event like a hurricane are primary concerns for the district. The district operates and maintains 81 water control structures ranging in size from major, high-hazard flood control structures capable of discharging 26,700 cu ft per second to small water conservation structures. To date, 35 of the district’s structures have been instrumented to allow remote control operation to improve response time in the event of a pending hurricane or other emergency situation. All of the district’s major flood control structures and the majority of the gated water control structures are remotely controllable.
Lisican: What sorts of challenges has SWFWMD encountered in recent years when attempting to meet its goals?
Harroun: As a result of declining home values and state budget cuts, the district’s budget has been reduced by 60% over the past several years. This has required staff to further prioritize funding for projects and programs. Although the district will have fewer dollars available for cooperative funding and grant programs over the next several years, the district remains committed to funding projects that meet our core mission of ensuring adequate water supplies, protecting and improving water quality, preserving flood protection and restoring natural systems.