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DEP Secretary’s Visit To Florida Keys Highlights Efforts To Guarantee A Clean And Sustainable Water Supply

July 17, 2009

~Tour of Keys wastewater facilities, stimulus loan check presentation and speaking at American Water Resources Association meeting highlights of visit~

clean-and-sustainable-water-supplyKEY WEST – Today, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael W. Sole traveled to the Florida Keys to underscore the importance of a clean and sustainable water supply for Florida. The Secretary began his two-day trip at the First Annual “John R. Wehle” Meeting of the Florida Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) in Key West where he gave opening remarks.

The focus of the annual meeting was on emerging technology and techniques for better water resource management and updates on important water resource management projects and legislation.


“We all have a critical role in ensuring a clean, reliable supply of water, managing floods and protecting citizens from drought – each of us is responsible for Florida’s water future,” said Secretary Sole.  “The key to success is working together.”

During his remarks, Secretary Sole shared facts on Florida’s water consumption and the need to work together at the local, regional and state levels:

  • Floridians used an estimated 6.9 billion gallons per day of freshwater.
  • By 2025, this is expected to increase 26 percent, to 8.7 billion gallons every single day.
  • And agriculture is currently the largest user of fresh water in the state; however, public water supply is projected to become the largest user in less than two decades.

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The state of Florida, through the efforts of DEP and the state’s five water management districts, has made great strides in protecting water resources, like putting an end to wastewater outfalls to reduce pollutants in the ocean and financing the development of alternative water supplies.  In addition, DEP administers its nationally recognized surface water restoration program.  The state also has a strong commitment to supporting water supply and water quality at the local level, providing financing through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure needs.  Secretary Sole emphasized that these efforts will continue to be part of the coordinated effort that will be required to meet the conservation, diversification and sustainability of water supply necessary to meet the state’s future water needs.

Other highlights of Secretary Sole’s two-day visit include:

  • Tour of wastewater treatment facilities: On Thursday morning, Secretary Sole participated in tours of the Key Largo and Little Venice wastewater treatment facilities. Excessive nutrients in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys have caused problems in the marine ecosystem such as coral reef degradation.
  • City of Marathon: Secretary Sole joined Mayor Mike Cinque celebrating the award of $10 million in stimulus loan funding for wastewater and stormwater management.  The city will use the money to provide better wastewater treatment and an innovative stormwater system, reducing nutrients and pathogens in the nearshore waters of the Florida Keys by eliminating septic tanks, cess pits and package wastewater treatment plants in a portion of Marathon. The project also includes a treatment system that will prevent stormwater from discharging directly into the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Bay.
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: On Friday, Secretary Sole will tour the Sanctuary’s Eco-Discovery Center. A key aspect of the tour will be the Aquarius exhibit, a model of the underwater laboratory 60 feet below the water’s surface on a coral reef – the exhibit recreates how scientists live and study during a mission in an underwater habitat. The Eco-Discovery Center features a number of interactive exhibits including “You Be the Manager” which gives visitors a better understanding of what is involved in making management decisions that affect the future of the Keys ecosystem. At the contour map exhibit visitors can watch the ocean currents swirl by the Keys or see the locations of lighthouses and historic shipwrecks found in Keys waters.

“The Keys are one of the state’s most treasured and unique ecosystems.  Water quality is vital to protection and sustainability of this ecosystem,” Sole said.  “I look forward to continuing the agency’s initiatives and working with state and local governments to further this critical mission.”

Recently, Florida received more than $212 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help Florida’s local governments finance improvements – $132.3 million for wastewater and stormwater improvements and $81 million for drinking water improvements.  DEP has committed 93% of the money to 48 projects in 43 Florida communities scheduled to receive ARRA money to build critically needed infrastructure and better provide for sustainable water resources.

Designated in 1990, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects the most extensive living coral reef in the United States. This area is managed under a partnership between National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with public involvement facilitated by the Sanctuary Advisory Council.

The 2,800-square nautical mile Sanctuary surrounds the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys and includes the waters of the Florida Bay, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.  To further protect the reef system, the State and federal governments designated the Sanctuary as a “no discharge zone” in 2001, prohibiting discharge of sewage from vessels within the designated area.

To learn more about Florida’s water efforts visit www.dep.state.fl.us/mainpage/programs/water.htm.

To learn more about AWRA visit www.awra.org.

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