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SFWMD urges Lehigh Acres to decrease water use

By Staff | Apr 22, 2009

The South Florida Water Management District is asking agricultural and commercial users in Lehigh Acres to limit their water usage.
According to district director Phil Flood, the sandstone aquifer that supplies thousands of homes and businesses is running dangerously low. If the levels continue to drop off, once-a-week water restrictions may become a reality.
“The sandstone aquifer is at extremely low levels,” he said. “Some of our monitor wells are indicating they are at record lows.”
Flood is predicting things will get worse before they get better, and further restrictions — including the once a-week-restriction — would become a reality. Right now the restrictions are limited to irrigation for homeowners, but extends to agricultural and commercial business.
Flood asked commissioners to help enforce the possible increase in restrictions by using sheriff’s deputies and code enforcement personnel.
“We want to put them on notice we’re not going to tolerate any violations … in all likelihood we are going to move toward further restrictions,” he said.
Pending water shortages could be the first step toward bringing a master utilities plan to Lehigh.
Commissioner Brian Bigelow asked county staff if it had included Lehigh in its long-range plans.
Staff admitted the master utility plan does not include a majority of Lehigh, only a limited amount of homes. Utilities director Jim Lavender added that a lack of water is a “fact of life” in Southwest Florida.
While Bigelow insisted that the problem is only going to grow in size, commission Chairman Ray Judah suggested the issue go before the management and planning board for further review.
Commissioner Frank Mann took a different approach, saying the issue is far too complex to be squeezed into an agenda item during a management and planning meeting. He suggested that a meeting focusing entirely on water and sewer problems is the best course of action.
“We should be talking about this, but it’s going to take a stand-alone meeting,” Mann said. “It’s a huge issue.”