Water-Related News

Lake's biggest water hogs: sand mines

over the last decade, the politics of who gets dwindling amounts of precious water from the Floridan Aquifer has left residents befuddled.

Silly us. We thought we were No. 1 considering that we pay the taxes. But, no.

Twenty years ago, residents could water the dickens out of whatever they wanted, but now the St. Johns River Water Management District limits watering. Today, you can barely keep your lawn from looking like the Mojave Desert while big commercial bottlers get to draw millions of gallons a year and make a profit on a natural resource.

The logic of that arrangement stinks in the minds of most residents, but not at the St. Johns, which sees its mission as providing water where it is needed and people actually drinking water as the best use of the stuff, regardless of who profits.

So who is getting the most water in Lake County, and what is it used for? What has changed since 1985, when agriculture was the economic and water use powerhouse? The answer is a lot.

Then, groves and farms used 33 million gallons a day, and what is called public supply — people drinking and watering lawns had permits for roughly 24 million gallons a day. About 126,325 people lived in Lake County then.

A survey of 584 active water permits in Lake today shows that agricultural uses are allowed to draw up to 44 million gallons a day and public supply users have overtaken the farm use and doubled it — they can draw up to 88 million gallons a day.

Those are the two biggest types of use, but the three single biggest water users in Lake come from the category of commercial users. They are sand mines owned by Cemex, Florida Rock and Tarmac America, now called Titan Florida LLC.