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Water plan progresses

A plan to save Lake Tarpon water for not-so-rainy days moves closer to the test stage.

Published June 10, 2007


EAST LAKE - It's times like this spring, when it's been too dry even to water the lawn, that a visit from the water fairy would be nice right about now.

But since that's not the way things happen in the real world, Pinellas County officials have spent several years coming up with ideas to increase the water supply for irrigation.

And one of those ideas, taking excess water from Lake Tarpon during the rainy season and storing it underground for use during dry periods, is on track and approaching the final stage of testing, officials said Thursday.

"We're moving forward, " said Pinellas County hydrogeology manager Dave Slolena, who's in charge of the project.

Construction crews are building a test well in John Chesnut Sr. Park for an underground reservoir known as an aquifer storage and recovery system.

But it still could be a few years - perhaps 2010 - before an actual program is put into place.

The county has to test the well extensively for about two years before the final go-ahead is given.

"You want to do these cycle tests, 'cause you don't want to go in there blindly, " Slolena said. "This is an integral part of the north county reclaimed water system."

The testing phase should start by fall 2008, he said.

If all goes well, future droughts might not be as bad as they are now for North Pinellas residents.

The underground reservoir could potentially supply 1-million gallons of water per day during the dry season.

In fact, if the program were up and running today, it would be perfect for the current drought conditions.

"This is the time that if you've got (aquifer storage and recovery), that you'd want to use it, " said Mark Barcelo, manager of the hydrologic evaluation section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The district, also known as Swiftmud, is co-funding the $3.3-million project.

The idea for such a project isn't new, officials said. Similar programs began in the early 1980s, Slolena said.

Several other local communities, including Clearwater and Largo, have tested their own aquifer storage wells.

A similar project also is under way at the South Cross Bayou water reclamation facility in St. Petersburg.

The Lake Tarpon project has been years in the making, Barcelo said, and has the support of the community.

How would it work?

An illustration explains the underground water storage plan. Page 8

[Last modified June 9, 2007, 19:37:36]

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