For the springs' sake: Managers tighten tap on water usage
Family fun — Water-conservation efforts have a specific goal: Maintain a sufficient flow in Blue Spring and other natural springs. The springs not only support a variety of wildlife, they provide a multitude of recreational opportunities.
BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN
Winter home — Blue Spring, whose flow is the focus of West Volusia water-conservation efforts, is a refuge for wildlife, especially for manatees that crowd the spring in the winter months as an escape from colder waters.
BEACON FILE PHOTO
Fed by an underground source — A kayaker navigates the Blue Spring run in Orange City. The flow of water into Blue Spring is affected by withdrawals from underground — for drinking, washing, irrigation and other household and business uses — across much of West Volusia.
BEACON FILE PHOTO
Regional water managers are slowly closing the spigot on how much water West Volusia can draw from underground.
“The focus on increased water conservation is districtwide,” said Teresa Monson of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Cities and other water utilities are being forced to find alternatives, like providing more treated wastewater for irrigation while saving underground water for drinking. But alternatives can be expensive, and some alternatives — a desalination plant, for example — are difficult or impossible for a small utility to build on its own.
What could be worse, some city officials say, is halting development altogether because they’ve reached the limit on water use.
Orange City is keeping a sharp eye on its water use, trying to reserve enough capacity to serve new commercial customers.
“We already have a list of projects that are in the pipe that have requested water,” Orange City Public Works Director Migdalia Hernandez said.
Included in those projects, she said, are developments near the under-construction Halifax Health Emergency Department at the border of Orange City and Deltona, near the Interstate 4 ramp.
There is vacant Orange City land near the emergency department, and Hernandez expects development there.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be support for the hospital — medical plaza, apartment complex, housing,” she said. “All those empty lots are filling because they need to serve those people that work in the hospital.”
How much underground water a utility is allowed to pump is spelled out in the utility’s consumptive-use permit, commonly called a CUP.
Orange City’s permit expires in December 2018, and city officials are anticipating changes in water allowance. Hernandez said the city plans to apply for a water-use increase, but hopes to at least keep its current allocation.
“There are going to be challenges,” Hernandez said. “Because we are so close to the springs, we expect to be told we cannot pump as much water as we are pumping now.”
Orange City has already started pushing conservation.
“On our side, the water conservation is No. 1 for us, and protecting the environment,” she said. “If we’re taking water out, we have to put it back in.”
In 2015, Hernandez said, the city spent $360,000 for new water meters that allow residents to go online to track how much water they are using, so they can better manage their water use and discover leaks more quickly.
The city is also working on public education, including seminars to teach Orange City residents how to landscape with less water and less fertilizer.
City of DeLand officials recently were relieved when DeLand’s water-use permit was renewed. The new CUP allows an increase in water use over the next 20 years, but only if DeLand keeps developing water alternatives.
The increase of about 2 million gallons a day will allow DeLand — and territory near its boundaries — to keep growing.
“We serve water customers well outside our city limits — from the fairgrounds at the east, all the way west to the river, and from Brandywine and Tomoka Woods to the north to Orange City,” said Keith Riger, public-services director with the City of DeLand.
The water-consumption goals set by DeLand’s CUP are achievable, Riger said. He is confident about the city meeting its goals for 2019; but the goals set out for 2024 will require finding or creating a secondary water source for DeLand.
“It is more difficult, and it will require us to build ... well fields or some other source of water,” Riger said.
Possible well fields on the eastern side of DeLand are a project on the city’s radar. These well fields will draw from sources other than the Blue Spring watershed. Before taking such a large step, however, the city will do a lot of research, Riger said.
DeLand, like other area municipalities, is participating in the West Volusia Water Suppliers group. This group is developing solutions, such as recharging the aquifer aggressively, to meet the water-supply needs of the region, and the goals for spring flows.
Deltona, too, is part of the group. The largest city in Volusia County faces new restrictions since its CUP was renewed in 2013. Its population gives Deltona the largest water allotment in West Volusia, but still the city is concerned about having room for growth — especially the commercial development the city lacks.
Not all cities are growth-minded.
“We do not anticipate needing any additional water or alternative sources due to our slow growth,” said Lake Helen City Administrator Jason Yarborough.
Utilities operated by Volusia County government serve about 16,000 water accounts, including homes and businesses. They are mostly in rural areas, but include the city of DeBary. The county’s CUP won’t be up for renewal until 2021, but Volusia County has already started working toward sustainable alternatives.
One of the solutions is connecting reclaimed-water systems, so those with plenty can share with those in need. Volusia County, in association with area cities and Sanford, has done some of that.
According to Mike Ulrich, director of Water Resources and Utilities for Volusia County, the focus has been on construction of new wells outside of the springshed, like the one being planned east of DeLand.
- A. Janell Williams, email@example.com
What’s your city’s status?
Number of accounts: 1,062 residential, 7 commercial
Maximum permitted annual withdrawal: 118.26 million gallons
Actual annual use in 2015: 85.71 million gallons
Permit expires: May 7, 2029
Number of accounts: 3,677 residential, 438 commercial
Maximum permitted daily withdrawal: 2.48 million gallons
Actual average daily use: 1.6 million gallons
Permit expires: December 2018
Number of accounts: 33,042 residential, 604 commercial
Maximum permitted daily withdrawal: 13.11 million gallons
Actual average daily use: 7.8 million gallons
Permit expires: November 2033
Number of accounts: Approximately 27,000 residential, 1,000 commercial
Maximum permitted daily withdrawal: 7.44 million gallons
Actual average daily use: 5-5.2 million gallons
Permit expires: January 2037
SOUTHWEST VOLUSIA COUNTY (includes DeBary)
Number of accounts: 9,200 total
Maximum permitted daily withdrawal: 4.7 million gallons
Actual average daily use: 3.2 million gallons
Permit expires: May 2021