Yes, water’s going up and down in Davenport, Florida: up in price sooner than later (although we haven’t formally been stung, believe me, it’s coming), and down as in down into the aquifer beneath our Floridian feet. Fortunately the latter is happening first, but we don’t have much time as our water supplies are dwindling faster than they can be replenished or “recharged,” as water experts explain. In brief the problem is that Davenport needs to find one million gallons of water a year by 2025 or face a consequential water shortage.
That’s quite the pickle to be in. Davenport commissioners complained when they met on March 15 for a special meeting to discuss the issue. Vice Mayor Brynn Summerlin said it was like there was a gun to his head. The reason? A March 16 deadline to respond to a group calling itself the Polk Regional Water Cooperative or PRWC.
The issue was one-fold but a very complex one-fold. The question being, would we want to maintain membership with PRWC as an associate member (free with no perks) or as a participating member (maybe free initially but with obligations) in a project to bring water to Davenport on some unknown future date? It was only one question couched in enormous logistical complexity and bad timing.
While the PRWC project would bring water in from Frostproof, a good 30 miles away, it would do so at some unknown cost. Lots of unknown’s, especially a cost that could easily ramp upwards towards the hundreds of millions.
Along with everyone else in the nation, Davenport is looking for “an alternative water source” and they believe they’ve found one below our collective feet, so they started drilling into an old well about a year ago but made it only 450 feet down, shallow considering that the Lower Floridan Aquifer starts at over 1,400 feet.
Then to throw the proverbial monkey-wrench into the mix, as I write this post, drilling has stopped on a second well on the same site. What happened was the well-driller got spooked and said adios when a crack occurred while drilling. Davenport commissioners will be consulting with a geologist to see if the site is now a sinkhole hazard or if we can continue drilling with someone else less inclined to run away. (P.S.: I would’ve run too.) But the commissioners are moving forward with drilling in the hopes that we will strike water, and that one-million gallons that we need will be our gold.
According to Mike Stripling, the utilities director, Davenport’s annual average water usage is over 2 million gallons but we’re permitted for 2,160,000 gallons. “We’re not going to make it [to 2025].” he said.
The solution? We’ve got to lower the per capita usage, but that’s not going to happen without some ordinances and probably a consumption tax on those watering their St. Augustine grass to their heart’s content or those wasting thousands of gallons per household on crystal clear, personal pools.
Mike said, “We need to put a hurting on these folks who are watering excessively” but only offered that commissioners consider an ordinance limiting grass-watering to one day a week. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. That simply won’t work. I doubt folks will become the grass police.
The medium usage is now about 4,500 gallons a month, but according to Mike’s research, Davenport has 1,400 customers who are using way too much water; that is, they’re using 14,000 gallons or more a month each! Those are the folks that need to be charged a consumption tax. A large one should work.
Another idea that residents far and wide would certainly welcome after all these years of being one of the fastest-growing areas in Florida: A moratorium on new residential permits until 2025.
Commissioner Tom Fellows half-jokingly suggested a “No Vacancy” sign because we can no longer afford to add more new residents, renters, houses, homes, and family and multi-family structures. A moratorium would not be a bad idea.
Do you think they’ll do it? I don’t, not with the relationships that our commissioners have with local builders.
On the other hand, a consumption tax would fit the bill, could raise money, could be easily identifiable, and vastly help towards solving Davenport’s looming water problem. I suggest the funds raised from the consumption tax could go directly towards anything but the unknown world of the PRWC. Maybe towards education of water conservation strategies. That should fix it!