How aquifer storage works and what it means for clean water

Published: December 10, 2021 5:42 PM EST
Updated: December 10, 2021 7:14 PM EST

On Friday, WINK News got a sneak peek at a possible solution to our water problems. It is known as ASR or aquifer storage and recovery wells.

It all starts where the Kissimmee river flows into Lake Okeechobee, but there’s a project underway that would clean and store the water before it flows into the lake. However, some have concerns about the project.

Bob Verrastro is the Principal Hydrogeologist for the South Florida Water Management District.  “So, we’re at the Kissimmee ASR system. It’s a facility that we actually built and tested for a couple of years, and it’s sort of like our prototype of the idea of ASR, Aquifer Storage and Recovery,” said Verrastro.

Think of this as a sort of sneak peek of what’s to come. “The essence of the ASR program is to try to help keep Lake Okeechobee in an environmentally favorable zone. That way the level of the lake won’t get so high that we discharge. We have to discharge the tide,” Verrastro said.

That water has to be cleaned before going underground, which is why companies compete with their own prototypes to see which cleans best. “We’ve made the commitment to treat the water that’s going to go into the aquifer to drinking water standards. So, we know that the water is drinking water quality before it goes into the aquifer,” said Verrastro. The water can then be extracted when needed.

People like Rolan Martin Marina General Manager and Hendry County Commissioner Ramon Iglesias are all for this. “So Kissimmee River is a perfect example of where this water’s coming from dumping phosphorus and nitrogen into the lake,” said Iglesias.

Groups like Captains for Clean Water want more of the stored water to head south. Chris Wittman is the program director for Captains for Clean Water. “That’s really where we want to see the focus is we want to put dollars that benefit, you know. Reducing discharges to the coasts and benefit the health of the lake, but also have a benefit to the southern part of the system and Everglades National Park and Florida Bay,” said Wittman.

While crews are drilling monitoring wells now, the South Florida Water Management district hopes to begin drilling ASR wells as early as 2022.