WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - UPDATE: The mayor of West Palm Beach is ordering increased enforcement of water restrictions. As a result, employees in the police, public utilities and parks departments will be trained to issue warnings and citations.
Every Friday department directors will need to update the number of warnings and citations issued during the week.
On Tuesday, unbeknown to the mayor or commissioners — city officials warned the South Florida Water Management District that it had only 22 days of water supply remaining.
“Conditions are such that a significant threat exists to the public’s health, safety, and welfare; the health of animals, fish, or aquatic life; public water supply, and commercial, agricultural, and other reasonable uses,” the report stated in requesting permission for the city to tighten its watering restrictions.
A day after the city warned that it only had 22 days of water remaining, West Palm Beach approved an order on residents allowing just one day a week of watering, effective today. Also, the city started spending about $10,000 a day from its utility reserves to purchase water from the county. But the city can only get one-third of its water needs from the county and might have to rely solely on the county supply should it run out of its own water.
If the city estimates are accurate, it would run out of water on June 28. It’s not immediately clear how long the addition of county water and the new restrictions on watering will extend that.
While commissioners said they were stunned to learn in the newspaper last week that the city was purchasing water from the county, on Monday, Mayor Jeri Muoio said that even she hadn’t known.
“I wasn’t aware that we were buying water from the county,” Muoio said. “(Administration), to be totally fair, they were following their standard procedure in terms of implementing steps when our water supply goes down. It’s a pretty standard step. But they need to let us know when we do that.
“I knew that we were in a bad drought, and I knew that our water supply was depleting, but I didn’t know that we were buying from the county and I didn’t realize that the dredging, pumping stuff (on Australian Avenue) was because of the crisis,” Muoio said.
When warning the SFWMD about water running out, West Palm Beach Utility Director David Hanks said the city used a computer drought model to help determine water resources. Hanks said the city used historical data, projected water and other source water.
“The model showed that if we did not have any rain moving forward and no other supplies of water, such as our wellfields, PBC, Lake Okeechobee we had only 22 days of supply,” Hanks said in an e-mail on Monday. “We run various scenarios twice a week on the model. Bottom line on all this is we desperately need rain!!!!”
Hanks will make a presentation at today’s 4 p.m. commission meeting.