Broward County is preparing to meet the long-term water needs of its residents in a number of ways. As discussed in the previous section, water conservation is fundamental and critical. However, water conservation alone cannot provide all of the water needed for Everglades restoration and growth.
To do this, we must invest in new water development technologies. The County’s IWRP includes a number of strategies to ensure that all of the County’s future water needs are met, regardless of whether it’s wet or dry.
This section describes some of the innovative technological solutions already being used by the County, and some technologies that are being considered for future use. Examples include:
- Secondary canal integration
- Wetland rehydration
- Utility sharing
- Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)
- Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT), and
- Water filtration or reverse osmosis
ASR, AWT, and reverse osmosis are all examples of alternative water supply technologies, and will be discussed in the next section, Developing New Water Resources because these are technologies that Broward County is just beginning to investigate or they are in the early stages of implementation.
Secondary Canal Integration
Canal integration is a fundamental part of the IWRP. Ultimately, the goal is to have a canal system that is flexible enough to move water from one part of the County to another, depending on who needs water, when, and in what amount.
There are currently over 1,700 miles of canals in Broward County.
While the system was originally designed for drainage and flood control purposes, under the IWRP, the system’s use is being expanded to meet additional water management needs – like maintaining ground water elevations, canal elevations, and wetland rehydration. By improving our current canal system, we can ensure that water is distributed to the areas where it’s needed most.
This local approach to water distribution provides us with the opportunity to be more effective in meeting our water management goals.
Through culverts and other interconnections, the County has optimized ways to capture, store, and redistribute water within the canal network. The canal system is still intended to provide drainage, but since rainfall distribution is variable, there are frequently opportunities to move water to communities downstream or upstream, where additional water storage is available and perhaps recharge is needed.
This allows the County to hold onto more stormwater runoff, and reuse it later. It also minimizes unnecessary discharges to the Everglades system, while still providing flood protection.
Broward’s initial efforts have focused on the capture, retention, and redistribution of local rainfall throughout the canal system. But, in order to achieve long-term success, the County needs to improve local storage, and diversify water supplies.
By doing this, we can better plan for droughts and reduce our reliance on the Everglades. The County’s canal system offers tremendous surface water storage capacity. However, water levels in the canal system are highly dependent on rainfall, so additional water sources may be needed to ensure that there is enough water for everyone, when it’s wet and when it’s dry.
Broward County is developing a plan that will identify alternative water supply projects that would be able to produce enough water to maintain the canal system and groundwater levels during wet and dry cycles. By maintaining water levels within the canal system and aquifer, the County can make sure that residents continue to receive the water they need regardless of weather patterns. Drought management is also discussed in the Developing New Sources section of this website.
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Our County is blessed with many natural ecosystems, including the Everglades, estuarine systems, and urban natural areas.
By now you already know that historical drainage has had unintended consequences on natural systems – including many of the County’s wetlands. Broward sees rehydrating urban wetlands as a key piece to the water management puzzle.
When managed properly, wetlands retain water during periods of heavy rain, filter water so that it can be reused, and act as a natural buffer reducing urban stormwater runoff. And, they provide habitat for water birds like cranes and egrets, as well as frogs, and other urban wildlife. As an added bonus, it is also estimated that up to 80% of water used to rehydrate wetlands benefits the aquifer and nearby wellfields through indirect recharge.
Broward County is also working very closely with its 31 local water utilities to help ensure that growing water needs are met.
The objective of utility integration is to make the most of our limited water resources, reduce redundant operations and expenditures, and seek partnerships to improve the economics of more costly projects.
Each one of Broward’s 31 water utilities has a distinct service area, but they all draw water from the Biscayne Aquifer. Given the geographic location of the utility, there may be different constraints on their ability to operate a wellfield. The threat of saltwater intrusion, the potential for induced water flow from the Everglades, and wetland impacts are all influences to be considered.
Where constraints do exist, there may be opportunities for utilities to share existing water resources to meet future demands. For example, some utilities may have wellfield capacity that exceeds their demands, and they could be in the position to share this resource with neighboring utilities.
Another example is of municipalities, drainage districts, and water utilities partnering to distribute water over a certain geographic area with the purpose of providing wellfield recharge or combating saltwater intrusion. The County’s hydrologic modeling helps to identify these kinds of opportunities. By working together, some utilities may be able to reduce their need for alternative water supplies and still ensure that residents, businesses, and industries have the water that they need, when they need it.
As you have seen, conservation and education are of the utmost importance to the Broward water management community. In addition to promoting water conservation, the County is also working to achieve more efficient operations, and better integrate the secondary canal network.
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