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Analysis: Floridan Aquifer can only handle 6% more pumping before serious environmental harm

By Kevin Spear

Just how much more water can Central Florida pump from the Floridan Aquifer without causing real harm to the region's environment? After years of debate, study and anxiety, state authorities say they have finally — and officially — figured it out.

The answer: hardly any.

Using the most advanced databases and computing methodology yet developed for such a task, a consortium of state water managers and local utilities have calculated that the current amount of water pumped from the underground aquifer each day can be increased by only about 6 percent — which means the region is already exploiting the huge, life-sustaining aquifer for nearly every drop it can safely offer.

For the past several years, Central Florida's demand for aquifer water by all users — homes, businesses and agriculture — has averaged 800 million gallons a day. But that demand is expected to rise during three decades to 1.1 billion gallons a day. The problem is, pumping more than 850 million gallons a day from the aquifer will inflict a significant amount of damage to wetlands, springs and rivers, according to the consortium's new analysis, unless a lot of costly environmental splints and bandages are applied.