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Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) Groundwater Availability Study

Florida’s water management districts maintain the state’s sustainable groundwater supply and regulate withdrawals from that supply for consumptive use. In 2006, three of the districts identified a region in Central Florida where supplies were expected to be insufficient to meet future demands. Because this region overlapped their borders, the districts decided to jointly develop a regional water management plan for the area. The districts permitted stakeholders to participate.

Five public utilities that draw water from the target region, united as The STOPR Group, pooled their efforts to contribute to the plan. WSP USA served as The STOPR Group’s technical consultant.

By 2010, the alliance, called the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI), included seven utilities, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the local agricultural industry, and environmental groups.

A fundamental obstacle the alliance encountered was that there existed no definitive measure of the sustainable amount of available groundwater.

The CFWI Groundwater Availability Study was initiated to help quantify that value, identify factors that could affect the supply, and facilitate the development of technical tools that would support planning and rulemaking to define how stakeholders can equitably share groundwater.

WSP assisted with the development of an improved regional groundwater model and also developed a unique method for estimating the likely environmental consequences of altered water levels in wetlands. The statistical wetland stress risk assessment method (SWSRAM) makes it possible to calculate the probability of a wetland becoming stressed or unstressed due to a change in hydrologic conditions. Using this method, the alliance reached consensus on how much sustainable groundwater is available, allowing the allocation rulemaking process to proceed.

The CFWI study earned a Grand Award in the studies/research category at the 2014 Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers’ Engineering Excellence Competition.