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Manatee commissioners consider options for expanding water supply

Although Manatee County expects to have sufficient drinking water for its growing population through the year 2034, it also expects that additional supplies will need to be on tap before then - even if it steps up conservation and recycling efforts. If that is the case, the expansion will come with additional costs to be passed on to consumers.

The county's current system draws water from wellfields, aquifer storage wells (in which treated water is injected into the aquifer during the rainy season and withdrawn during droughts) and the Lake Manatee reservoir. It is permitted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to supply 52.8 million gallons per day.

Currently, the county (which also provides water to Sarasota County, Palmetto, Bradenton and the island municipalities) experiences a demand for about 38.8 million gallons a day - well below the permitted capacity and also less than the 46.8 million gallons per day the county predicted several years ago would be the current demand.

By 2035, demand could be at 50.7 million gallons a day - possibly 53.6 million gallons if previous forecasts prove to be more accurate.

Manatee is experiencing some reduced demand partially because Sarasota County, which used to get 10 million gallons daily, now gets 4 million gallons. Sarasota County has become less reliant on Manatee and more reliant on the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority.

Also, individual water customers are using less water. In 1977 the system's average consumer used 200 gallons per day. By 2014, that amount dropped to 91 gallons.

Yet, despite conservation efforts, incoming residents and businesses are expected to increase overall demand in the decades ahead. Before investing in new supplies, however, the county intends to try to reallocate or expand existing sources.