News Feature | April 3, 2014

Desalination, Treated Wastewater: Best Options For Florida's Space Coast?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Florida's Space Coast needs new sources of drinking water if it is to meet rising demand in the coming years without drying up its groundwater resources. 

The district is working on a 20-year plan aimed at finding an extra 256 million daily gallons, Florida Today reported. Regional planners say desalination and treated wastewater are likely to be a part of the solution. 

"The St. Johns River Water Management District is looking for ways to meet the region’s future need for water, triggered by projected population growth and development within eastern and Central Florida," Florida Today reported. 

Demand for water is expected to grow. 

"A study by the district, which governs water issues for an 18-county area that includes Brevard, shows that the region’s population is likely to increase by almost 1.8 million from 2010 to 2035. Water demand is expected to increase by 314 million gallons a day," the report said. 

To meet that demand, conservation will be one puzzle piece, but more drastic measures are needed, experts said in the report. 

Even if the area were to tap all its groundwater sources, that would only provide an extra 58 million gallons of water per day, the report said. 

That's where desalination comes in. 

"The Water Management District cites seawater as having significant potential as a water source," the report said. 

The district called it "inherently reliable and virtually drought-proof,” according to the report.  Cost and the environmental challenges of disposing byproducts were cited as drawbacks. 

The current status of desalination in Florida?

"Statewide, there are three seawater desalination plants; two older plants in Key West with a capacity of 3 MGD and the newest plant in Tampa, producing 25 MGD," the Florida Environmental & Law Blog said in analysis piece. 

Treated wastewater may be another part of the solution. 

"Blending treated wastewater directly into the potable water system via pipeline connections has been used in many countries, and is being tried in parts of California and Texas," the Florida Today report said, citing the district. 

As Florida eyes water solutions, experts say it has a long way to go when it comes to even just optimizing conservation. Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” told WBET that Florida has "dunderheaded, if not dumb, water problems."

"Florida gets four feet of water a year, 48 inches fall on average on every part of Florida. [Yet it has] chronic water shortages. And half the water used in Florida is used for outdoor lawn watering. So they need to connect the dots a lot. They need to collect the water that falls and use it, and they need to realize that their grass will be green even if they don't turn on the sprinkler systems," he said.

Image credit: "Cape Canaveral - Atlantic Ocean Beach," © 2012 jared422_80, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Genericlicense:

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