When you take your shower in the morning, send a little gratitude to the aqueduct authority

Greg Veliz, executive director of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about water.

With the ending of the legislative session in Tallahassee recently, funding has been approved for the aqueduct authority.

Veliz said, “In the last few years, we’ve put a concentrated effort in Tallahassee, and it’s paid off quite handsomely. This year, we had gone up there with the expectation of possibly getting $10 million. We ended up getting $5 million. We’re in the midst of never before seen capital improvements here that we’re doing. We currently have $350 million worth of projects going on, in various stages, with an expenditure this year of $100 million. So in order to sustain that, we have to maximize the amount of funds that we’re bringing in and while $5 million is nothing to scoff at, we certainly would have liked to have seen the 10.”

The replacement of the main water line in the Upper Keys is continuing.

Veliz said, “We’re moving forward. We’re finishing up in Islamorada now, doing some of the final tie ins. I believe we’re supposed to begin the subaqueous crossing at Will Harbor and that will take us right into Windley Key. We’ll continue right on all the way through Plantation. As soon as we start the ending of the Windley Key, we’ll have to start the next phase, and the design and things of that nature. Hopefully prices will level out a little bit and won’t continue to escalate. At the end of what we currently have planned, we’re going to have a little more than 12 miles done. When you’re looking at, ultimately 130 miles, while that’s a little bit of a dent, we certainly have to keep going.”

The water flow in the Keys really is thanks to the aqueduct authority.

Veliz said, “For those of us that have been here many, many, many years, that wasn’t always the case. Water pressure, at the very least, was very intermittent. I always say, people move here, and they look at health care, and they look at all sorts of things. It surprises me that no one understands that we actually do have a water source that is 130 miles away, connected by one pipe. That’s not something that people ordinarily look at, however, hey, it is a reality. We’re pretty damn consistent. We pride ourselves on delivering that every day. But it is a fragile system and we do have to maintain it.”

The legislature also did have some legislative action that will affect the borrowing market.

Veliz said, “There was some legislation that was that was put in long ago when we first took over some wastewater systems that said that we could not combine the bottom lines from both water and wastewater when we went to the funding market. This new legislation will allow us to do that. It puts us in a far better financial position, which gives us the ability to get better rates. That that was big for us because when I go up there asking, begging for money, asking for money. Well, what have you done? Have you looked to do this? Have you looked to do that? You can’t rely only on Tallahassee and I understand that. So when we go to the borrowing market, it allows us also to go to Tallahassee to say, look, we’re doing our part, too.”

The high season is upon us and that will add to the strain on the water system, but the aqueduct authority can handle it.

Veliz said, “We’re topped off, all of our tanks are good, despite the fact that we have these influxes of people it seems like almost every weekend, regardless. We are still being able to maintain. We’ve got our pressures down a little bit, we’ve got our daily output down a little bit. It has helped a great deal. It puts less strain. We can’t continue 24, 25, 26 million gallons a day, endlessly, and just pumping as hard as we can. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think right now, we’ve adjusted all of our pressures to meet whatever the individual demands are of every customer and we’re still able to maintain and keep our tanks full, closer to 22 million gallons a day. So that’s helping a great deal. In the water business, time is not your friend. So water can’t just sit in a tank endlessly. It has to continually recycle. All the water you get is out of a tank because we can’t just pump straight pipe to tap, because the water in the tank would then become compromised. It’s a juggling game of emptying this tank, filling that tank and never letting one sit for very long because it has a shelf life.”

With the warm temperatures coming, conservation of water is very important.

Veliz said, “People tend to forget about conservation in good times, and when everything’s working properly. You seldom hear the word conservation, and then all of a sudden, something happens and it’s conserve. I think if we conserve across the board, it’ll help whenever we come into a bad time, which will eventually happen one time or another. We’ve got Spring Break going on. So just everyone be safe and we’ll continue to do what we do and try to get you a better product and more reliable than we are now.”