SFWMD Water Farming Partnership with Caulkins Citrus Helping Reduce Flows to St. Lucie Estuary
Several dispersed water management projects on private and publicly-owned land in South Florida keeping thousands of acre-feet of stormwater runoff out of northern estuaries
|Click on the image to see a larger version showing the Caulkins Water Farm in western Martin County, which has stored more than 5,500 acre-feet of local basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee releases and more than 6,000 acre-feet of direct rainfall in the past month.
West Palm Beach, FL - A month into the wet season after record May rainfall fell across the region, a public-private partnership between the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Caulkins Citrus Company has been working at full capacity to store local stormwater runoff and help reduce U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers' discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary.
"Every gallon stored counts during this high water situation," said SFWMD Governing Board Member Brandon Tucker. "The state is doing its part to finish major restoration projects that will store water and protect the estuaries long-term. In the meantime, private landowners like the Caulkins family are stepping up with these public-private partnerships to do their part by giving us the flexibility we need to store water in the short-term helping reduce flows to the estuaries."
The Caulkins Water Farm is built on a 3,200-acre former citrus grove east of Indiantown just off the C-44 Canal. After a two-year pilot project stored more than 40,500 acre-feet of water from the canal and direct rainfall on just 450 acres, SFWMD and the Caulkins Citrus Company formed a public-private partnership to help store water on a much larger scale.
Since May 15, the Caulkins Water Farm has stored more than 5,500 acre-feet of local basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee discharges on top of the 6,000 acre-feet of direct rainfall on the site, keeping that water from flowing into the St. Lucie Estuary.
Caulkins' Water Farm on-site managers have determined that the site can continuously take 150 acre-feet of water out of the C-44 Canal and onto the Caulkins Water Farm per day. This amount matches the daily rate of water lost from the site through percolation and evaporation, allowing the site to continuously operate if site conditions remain unchanged.
"This project captured billions of gallons of water in one month and kept it from going into the St. Lucie Estuary," said George Caulkins III, president of the Caulkins Citrus Company. "I think there is a lot of potential in this site and others like it to store local stormwater runoff and protect the St. Lucie Estuary."
For years, SFWMD has utilized its Dispersed Water Management program to store water on public lands and partner with private landowners to do the same. Since record rainfall started in May, causing Lake Okeechobee to rise more than a foot in a matter of weeks, SFWMD has utilized all available capacity to store or move water in an effort to protect the estuaries.
The total storage capacity of all of these projects is about 54,000 acre-feet. SFWMD is working with these partners to maximize the capacity in the coming days and weeks to reduce the impact of and need for releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries for flood protection.