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Opinion: It’s time to reconsider cisterns

By Tom Palmer, published April 7th, 2018 in the Lakeland Ledger

The looming water supply problems in this part of Florida have revived some talk of an old idea: cisterns.

Cisterns have been used in various parts of the world for centuries.

In case you’re unfamiliar with cisterns, they are simply water-tight containers of various sizes that are used to collect and store rainwater for future use.

The concept was part of a discussion at the recent Polk County Water School that I attended to give local government officials and some other invited folks a chance to hear the latest about local water issues and solutions.

In the current terminology, cisterns could be viewed as another alternative water supply.

You may hear this term regularly if you’re following local water supply issues because the best research has determined that tapping the Floridan aquifer to supply all of our water needs is coming to an end.

That’s because continuing to pump increased quantities of water from the aquifer at the rate we have done in the past is unsustainable.

That’s where alternative water supplies come in.

This word about the approaching end of business-as-usual in the water supply world is coming out at the same time as a series of in-depth studies conducted in conjunction with a regional effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative. This initiative grew out of an earlier effort to forge a regional plan for supplying water and heading off the kind of water wars that raged in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to know the effect of unsustainable water pumping, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of lessons.

I recently received a 2010 report to the Florida Legislature from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that contained a map depicting a 50-year boundary for salt-water intrusion in the Floridan aquifer that extends to the outskirts of Brandon. It leaves you to wonder how close to Polk County the 100-year boundary will be.