$598 Million for Polk County (Florida) Lower Floridan Aquifer Drilling

August 10, 2023
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Nearly $600 million was granted to Polk County, Florida, for Lower Floridan Aquifer drilling in the Floridan Aquifer, increasing freshwater supply to the region.

The Polk Regional Water Cooperative has been awarded nearly $600 million in loans and grants to help the region establish an alternative water supply plan. PRWC is a collective of 16 Central Florida and Bay Area municipalities* that are involved in and will benefit from the initiative. By drilling exceptionally deep wells (3,000 to 6,000 feet deep, as compared to 300-foot Upper Floridan Aquifer wells), the region will be able to tap into a valued water source. ABC News Tampa Bay describes the new wells as “super wells”.

To help support the project, Polk County Regional Water Cooperative has received a $305 million WIFIA loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wendi Wilkes, Senior Advisor for Water at EPA, said, “The aquifer is projected to be unable to meet drinking water demands by 2035, which might sound far away, but it’s really just around the corner when we’re talking about infrastructure investment.”

The EPA loan will be combined with a $293 million grant from the Southwest Florida Management District (SWFWMD). While Lower Aquifer drilling affords the capability to tap into an additional water source without disrupting the Upper Aquifer, the water in the Lower Aquifer has a high mineral content, requiring a reverse osmosis system to treat it to drinking water standards. Included in the project’s scope of work will be a new water treatment facility.

Eric DeHaven, Executive Director of Polk Regional Water Cooperative, explained, “Part of these projects is going to be a 61-mile transmission pipeline in Polk County that will route this water from our treatment plants to all the member governments that will then pick up that water and put it into their system.”

When complete, the project is expected to produce up to 10 million gallons per day of new alternative water supplies and is projected for future expansion to a capability of up to 22.5 million gallons per day.

“Receiving these WIFIA loans is a game-changer for the residents of Polk County,” said George Lindsey III, Chairman of the PRWC Board of Directors. “The PRWC alliance formed between the county and its municipalities has strengthened our opportunity to seek federal and state funding that will have tremendous impact on future water supplies in Polk.”

Learning More About the Amazing Floridan Aquifer

The Floridan Aquifer (note: that’s “Floridan,” not Floridian) is the primary freshwater supply for many parts of Florida. The aquifer spans more than 100,000 square miles below the ground, stretching from South Carolina to Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

The Floridan Aquifer is divided into Upper and Lower depths, that are separated by low-permeability rock.

Dr. Andrea Albertine, Northwest Regional Specialized Agent in Water Resources, describes the Floridan Aquifer as, “one of the most productive aquifer systems in the world.” (Read more: The Incredible Floridan Aquifer.)

The image shown below was created by the South Florida Water Management District and can be viewed in greater detail on their website.


Image Credit: South Florida Water Management District

*PRWC Member Municipalities:

  • Auburndale
  • Bartow
  • Davenport
  • Dundee
  • Eagle Lake
  • Fort Meade
  • Frostproof
  • Haines City
  • Lake Alfred
  • Lake Hamilton
  • Lake Wales
  • Lakeland
  • Mulberry
  • Polk City
  • Polk County
  • Winter Haven

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