As water travels through piping on route to your home, turning on the faucet and having clean drinking water flow can be a mindless task, often taken for granted by modern day society. One of the roles the city plays as public servant is to provide residents with clean drinking water at the most obscure cost.
Implementing this monumental task on a daily basis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is the Utility Department’s responsibility, under the eminence of Migdalia Hernandez, Water Resources Engineer.
Water lines (pipes - also referred to as infrastructure) are located under the city that date back to the 1920s. These water lines filled the needs of approximately 11,612 residents at that time in Sanford’s history.
Fast forward to the 21st century, Sanford’s population is now close to 54,000 as technology and need increase; the maintenance and rehab on aged piping become no longer effective. The city is now faced with the alternative of upgrading the infrastructure, which comes with a hefty price tag. Increased regulatory laws mandate the city to oblige and for the residents to absorb the cost.
The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) is responsible for distributing the water flowing through these pipes. The Floridan Aquifer is the main source of water for Central Florida, the reason why it needs to be controlled by SJRWMD and primarily so this natural resource isn’t used up by 2030.
Most of the groundwater for city drinking water purposes is currently withdrawn from this aquifer.
“The Florida Aquifer is in trouble due to the amount of water being withdrawn by all water providers”, said Migdalia Hernandez, City Water Resource Engineer.
In order for water providers (such as the city) to withdraw water from the Aquifer, a District Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) has to be issued. This permit allows the city to withdraw 9.58 million-gallons of ground water per day. However, this amount of water is not enough to take the city into the year 2030.
Further perpetuating this situation, according to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, there are approximately 2,264 acres of vacant, developable land in Sanford. The flip side to developing this land is having the capacity and infrastructure in place to support Sanford’s future growth. Faced with this fact, upgrading water and sewer infrastructure is job one.
As an alternative, the St. Johns River can accommodate and feed this growth; however, the cost is three times more, because river water has to be treated by using technical treatment processes to maintain compliance with increased, stringent drinking water standards. In addition, upgrades to the city’s water treatment facilities are needed and required to meet more rigorous drinking water regulations.
Thanks to the Floridan Aquifer, a drop of water can go a long way when it is conserved into billions of drops of water through the reuse of recycled wastewater. The city is steadfast on its commitment to conserve water through its potable water program by using reclaimed and recycled water for irrigated land and for other industrial and commercial uses.
For now, the aquifer is the backbone for future development, delaying the high cost of using the St. John’s River as an alternative resource to support future growth. According to a recent American Water Works Association (AWWA) article “Infrastructure: It’s Not All About the “M” Word” research concludes, the average cost in the United States for replacing aged infrastructure, ranges from triple-digit billions to more than $2 trillion.
In order to deliver clean tap water for drinking and water for cooking and bathing, the maturing infrastructure needs to be overhauled. Providing a clearer understanding of the astronomical costs involved in implementing upgrades to the system and the operational costs associated with this process can be overwhelming to the average citizen. Through education and awareness, benefits do outweigh the cost, becoming well worth the investment.
Years ago, to keep costs down for the residents, the city began performing minor repairs and concentrating on pipe rehab on an as needed basis. Now the city is at a cross roads, facing its aging piping infrastructure and future population growth.
In 2008, to determine what piping needed overhaul, an infrastructure study was completed. This study determined water service areas within the city that needed pipe rehabilitation.
In order for the city to meet the standards set forth by the Federal Government’s Safe Drinking Water Act, the results of the study were used to justify the need for federal stimulus dollars. The funds were granted and allocated out of the State Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SFR) to renovate outdated water system infrastructure. Lastly, increased fire protection becomes a bonus to performing pipe rehabilitation.
Funding received from the State Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SFR) and future guaranteed funding:
• 2009 – 2010 = $2.55M Stimulus funds (free money) and $450,000 SRF (low rate loan)
• 2011 – 2012 = $4 M Grant Funds (free money) and $13 M SRF (low rate loan)
• 2013 = $10 M are listed under the SRF Contingency List, pending Grant/SRF funding. (The next hearing is scheduled for January 2013).
The City has received more than $20 Million in federal funding over the course of 4 years to renovate the city’s piping infrastructure that help make living in Sanford more enjoyable.
If you would like more information about this subject, do not hesitate to contact our Water Resources Engineer, Ms. Migdalia Hernandez at 407-688-5104 or her email: Migdalia.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Mosca, MPA, is a Public Information Officer in the Office of the City Manager in the City of Sanford. If you would like to submit a question to Lisa regarding the subjects of the bi-weekly column she can be reached at Lisa.Mosca@sanfordfL.gov.