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SOURCE WateReuse Florida
POMPANO BEACH, Fla., Oct. 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The construction of our water, wastewater and stormwater systems are based on rules established to ensure that they can withstand storm events. Those rules, put in place by local, state and federal government are presently designed for storm events that might occur every 25 or 100 years. Depending on where you are in Florida, Irma dumped seven to 16 inches of rain. This exceeds the 25 and 100-year rainfall events.
These repeated and excessive storms take a toll on our infrastructure. And, it's not just the water, wastewater and stormwater systems. Roads. Bridges. Ports. Homes. All are affected and in some cases interrelated.
Storms before and after left the ground and water flow channels saturated. Most existing systems are simply not designed for this kind of inundation. Many are designed to accommodate eight inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Coupled with the unprecedented loss of power; communities across Florida suffered inundation, power loss and wastewater lift stations failure with smelly consequences. Every utility director affected cringed at the reports of lift station failure and releases of treated (and sometimes untreated) wastewater into the environment. Throughout the storm and after utility professionals across Florida were at work making agonized decisions about what to do in the moment, what to do after the storm passed and what to do in the future.
From our pipelines to our treatment and storage facilities our systems require ongoing maintenance, repair and in some cases technology upgrades. These storms stress the systems and exceed their capacity (the amount of water, wastewater, stormwater) they are designed to move, treat or store.
The systems that we have now we have invested in over many years. But, it may be time for change. Storm events that far exceed the capacity of our systems are at the least inconvenient and at worst a possible threat to public health and the environment.
Either way, the repair, expansion and upgrade of our water, wastewater and stormwater systems will require significant investment and significant public support.
As utilities clean up, fix up and continue preparation for the future, utilities will be asking councils and commissions to approve funding to improve their treatment systems. We will need public support for the investment that is necessary. There will be public discussion about whether and how the rules that govern water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure need to be changed. There will be a public debate about balancing the cost of improving our systems with the risks.
One thing that WateReuse Florida has advocated for is the integration of our water systems. When we integrate systems, we treat and recycle water so that it's used over and over and over again providing more capacity. Having a closed system is no guarantee that when the power goes out or the rain is extraordinary, that we won't have issues, but it does give us better control and better management of all our resources.
That is what every water professional wants.
Randy Brown, President
Pompano Beach Utilities Director
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