The budget proposed by Florida's governor could increase potable water supplies in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Gov. Rick Scott requested that legislators allocate $20 million towards construction of the C-51 reservoir in Palm Beach County. That reservoir is not directly related to much-debated reservoirs intended to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee. But officials say it could provide South Florida residents with more drinking water -- much of it from stormwater.
"It's an opportunity to augment water supplies... utilizing what really ends up being traditional resources," said Jennifer Jurado, Broward's chief resiliency officer and director of environmental planning. "We're just taking advantage of rainfall that's being lost to the north and creating another place where it can enter into the [Biscayne] Aquifer."
The Biscayne Aquifer supplies water to more than eight million Floridians -- about a third of the state's population. It's threatened by seawater that seeps through South Florida's porous limestone, but Jurado said adding another source of freshwater would help mitigate some of the saltwater intrusion threat.
"If built out to complete capacity, we'd have the potential to deliver up to 150 million gallons per day," she said.
The reservoir is under construction in an old rock mine owned by Palm Beach Aggregates LLC. In its first phase, it would hold 4.5 billion gallons of water and could put out 35 million gallons of water per day. That first phase is expected to cost about $161 million and take about two years to complete. It would be funded by both the state and local governments, including Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Jurado said the reservoir would also help protect seagrass and other organisms in the Lake Worth Lagoon from sediment carried by excess water. And it would help prevent flooding after heavy rainfall, like parts of Palm Beach County saw following Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012.