Water Association says new treatment facilities are in the works

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■ BY SUE ERWIN

The Gasparilla Island Water Association announced its intention to replace and expand its current water treatment facilities at its  annual membership meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

GIWA President Les Diaz said the existing water treatment facility is nearing the end of its useful life. Therefore, the board is reviewing options, including replacement of the existing treatment facility with a plant constructed to last 50 years.

“We have to increase the capacity of our water treatment facility, so we have installed two new deep wells. The wastewater plant also needs to be completely redone – we’re hoping that will get done within the next eight years,” Diaz said.

Initial cost estimates are around 13 million dollars.

“This capital improvement is timed to coincide with the retirement of our oldest loans that mature in 2019, which will free up cash to repay new debt but will still require some creative financing,” as explained in the annual report.

Treasurer Mike Holmes presented a fiscal report for the year 2015.

“The company has a very good financial system. Financially we are solid. We sold 354 million gallons of water last year, down a bit from the year before, and we are happy about that. It means less water is being wasted and going into the ground,” Holmes said.

Holmes added that the organization is still trying to decide on the best way to raise money for a new treatment plant.

“We are looking at several options. We are in good shape and well controlled,” Holmes said.

Resident Randy Hicks asked if a new facility is really necessary.

Several board members answered that question.

One response concluded that there wouldn’t be a big reduction in cost if they outsourced the water to be treated by Charlotte County, because of the connection and transport fees affiliated with treating and transporting the water.

“We have studied the cost ramifications, and it’s just not cost-effective to do that,” Holmes said.

GIWA’s water withdrawal permit issued by Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) in 2011 includes a requirement that they reduce the daily average water use per person from an average of 176 gallons as follows:

* Reduce to 164 gallons per person by December 31, 2014;

* Reduce to 150 gallons per person be December 31, 2019.

“We exceeded our 2014 mandate with a reduction to 158 gallons per person. Water usage actually increased in 2014, but an increase in average population reduced our perperson usage by two gallons per day,” the annual report states.

Diaz states in the report that, while the organization met the first mandate, residents must reduce water usage even further to meet the 2019 mandate.

“GIWA wants to remind everyone that if landscape sprinklers are turned off when it rains, it will go a long way toward meeting the permit mandate. The easiest way to accomplish this is to install automatic rain shutoff devices that override irrigation systems when sufficient rain has fallen. This is simply an easy way to save one of our most precious resources and also save on your water bill.”

The report states that total water system operating expenses were $1,290,746 in 2015 and total sewer operating expenses were $860,834.