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IWA works to reduce energy costs, conserve water

By Staff | Jul 1, 2010

The Island Water Association's 2010 Board of Directors includes, from left, Bill Carr, Bob Lindman, Bill Fenniman, Jack Cunningham and Tim Gardner.

It’s summertime, and sometimes the only way quench the effects of Florida’s excruciating heat is to enjoy a nice cold glass of water.

If you happen to be enjoying that refreshing glass of water on Captiva or Sanibel, you have the Island Water Association to thank.

“We’re responsible for providing all of the water to sanibel and captiva and we have some 5,000 customers and some 10,000 meters,” said IWA president Bill Fenniman of the private, not-for-profit corporation.

“It’s a wonderful company to be involved with. It’s very successful and we do a good job, I think, in providing water to the islands.”

There are two Captivans that sit on the IWA board of directors, including Jack Cunningham, who is new to the board, and Bill Fenniman, who just began is second year as president.

Island Water Association general manager Rusty Isler received an etched art piece created by Luc Century in recognition of his 30 years of service at the utility.

There are 15 wells on Captiva and Sanibel that supply IWA with its water.

Water is pumped from 600 feet below the Earth’s surface from the Suwanee Aquifer, which covers the lower southeastern portion of the United States.

The water then undergoes a technique called “reverse osmosis,” a filtration process that removes impurities — mostly salt — from the water.

In 2007, IWA replaced three miles of water pipe near the ‘Tween Waters Inn stretch of Captiva Drive.

If you have driven along Sanibel-Captiva Road lately, you probably noticed digging and construction going on in front of the Sanibel School. IWA is currently replacing the 12 inch diameter well line with a 16 inch well line, which will bring water to the plant more easily and, according to Fenniman, help IWA to lower costs.

Once the San-Cap Road project has wrapped up, IWA has their sights on Blind Pass.

As soon as all the permits are in place, IWA will begin replacing an old corroded ductile iron pipe that runs across Blind Pass. Construction will span from Pine Avenue to the Blind Pass bridge and is expected to begin after September.

Over the years, IWA has worked tirelessly to lower costs and keep Captiva’s tap water clean and clear.

“We’ve reduced our energy cost some 50 percent in the last two decades by updating our technologies,” Fenniman said.

But according to Fenniman, the mission of IWA is two-fold.

“Operating IWA is somewhat of a dichotomy — we’re promoting water conservation, but we’re also selling water,” Fenniman said.

According to Fenniman, the heaviest use of water on the islands occurs at 4:10 a.m. — because that’s when all the sprinkler systems come on.

“Sixty percent of the water we use is for irrigation purposes,” Fenniman said.

And while water is a necessity, there are a number ways that IWA is promoting responsible water consumption and conservation.

IWA offers a rain gauge attachment that hooks up to sprinkler systems and automatically shuts of the system if the islands are getting enough rain.

“There is a remote magnetic reader that you can attach to the refrigerator that measures your water usage. You can find out how much you use monthly or weekly. It only costs about $78,” Fenniman said. “It gives the public the opportunity to be aware of how much water they’re using.”

IWA is also making things easier for employees.

There are 500 small water meters on Captiva alone, and each one requires an IWA employee to physically walk up to the meter to record the data.

But not anymore.

“The Badger Orion System allows our meter readers to get within 50 yards of the meter and read it. It will make reading much faster, and it gives them more time to do other tasks,” Fenniman said.

“We get pretty good feedback on quality and what we’re doing and we want to maintain that,” Fenniman said. “Anybody who is getting water is a member of the association, and as a member, they’re owners and they’re always welcome to call Island Water at any time.”

For more information about the Island Water Association and to learn how you can do your part to conserve water, call 472-1502.