Evaluation and simulation of a large-scale pilot water farm project in South Florida, USA

Christopher J. Brown


South Florida, USA is in the midst of enormous change driven by steady population growth. At the same time the citrus industry has been struggling to contain outbreaks of citrus greening which threaten an important industry in the region. To add to this complexity, the “re-plumbing” of the Everglades Ecosystem is underway which aims to redirect the flow of surface and groundwater to more natural patterns. Currently, flow out of Lake Okeechobee is shunted mostly east or west through massive flood control canals. On the east side of Lake Okeechobee water is directed down the C-44 or St. Lucie Canal towards the Atlantic Ocean. These large pulse releases of freshwater can wreak havoc in the St. Lucie Estuary as flora and fauna can be shocked by the instantaneous change in salinity from the large releases as well as impacts from nutrients carried in the flows. This study focuses upon a pilot “water farm” project implemented to provide some interim water storage and treatment benefits in the watershed. This study summarizes the results of a comprehensive assessment of the water farm performance concentrated upon the fate of stored water as well as the overall cost effectiveness of the project. The assessment was greatly aided by the development of complementary simulation tools using MODFLOW and Solver also discussed herein. Finally, this paper discusses how this idea can be scaled up and used in other future projects to support the Everglades Restoration and overall sustainable development of Florida, USA and other places further afield.

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