Source Water Protection Specialists Visit South Florida Water Management District

While attending NRWA’s In-Service Training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USDA Source Water Protection Specialists from across the country visited the South Florida Water Management District. As the attendees toured the grounds, they learned about A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB), which is one of several projects in the State of Florida’s Restoration Strategies plan to improve water quality in the Everglades. The A-1 FEB was completed in 2015 and now the shallow impoundment captures, stores and delivers stormwater runoff to treatment areas to improve their treatment performance.
Discussion on the Everglades water quality made up part of the conversation. The Everglades are at risk from excess nutrients found in stormwater runoff. Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA) are constructed wetlands that remove excess nutrients and are playing a vital role in helping the Everglades. One solution the treatment areas use is green technology; plants such as cattail, southern naiad and algae, uptake phosphorus and use it in metabolic life processes. From this green technology, the water flowing out of an STA has significantly less phosphorus than stormwater runoff flowing in.
In-Service is a great opportunity for the Source Water Protection Specialists to learn about different systems and areas of the country.
“It’s great to get a different perspective on things happening in other states. Many times, we only see a small picture of what’s happening in water and waste water but what happens all over the country can affect us all,” remarked Eric Fuchs, Source Water Protection Specialist with Missouri Rural Water Association.
Learning new techniques and operations, the attendees can take information back to their states and use it to help better their own operations.
“The enormity of the project was one thing that stood out to me,” also said Fuchs on the operations at the South Florida Water Management District.
The structural components of the STAs include more than 12 dump stations, over 200 water control structures and more than 100 miles each of levees and canals. With the size of the operation, mechanical repairs, preventative maintenance, erosion control and debris cleanup are ongoing tasks.
STAs are built for improving water quality in the Everglades, but their vast, shallow waters and rich plant life also make them a prime habitat for Florida wildlife. Such birds as roseate spoonbills, white storks and eagles can be seen. American alligators can also be seen year-round in the treatment wetlands.
Rural Water understands the importance of seeing and learning about unique operations and systems in different regions of the country. This is why each year at the NRWA In-Service Training, the Source Water Protection Specialists visit a nearby system. Opening up an avenue for them to learn and connect about one of the most important things in life, water.