Limiting farmers from pumping during freezes

The water district in Hillsborough is considering a limit on how much water strawberry farmers can pump during a freeze. This is a delicate issue – the farmers need to protect their crops, but the sea level needs to remain healthy.

This Plant City issue has been discussed more than once in news broadcasts but for the first time, a governmental agency is taking a real serious look at the problem and how to avoid it in the future, hopefully without harming the farmers’ crops, which affects both their ability to support their families and the availability of food for consumers.

The problem

Hundreds of homeowners faced residual issues with dry wells or activated sinkholes during the freezes of 2008-2010. The district and advisory board seem to want to walk the thin line between harming the local farming industry by taking away their ability to protect their crops and dealing with the resultant dry wells and sinkholes as they have for the past two winters.

The goal seems to be keeping the aquifer from dipping below 10 feet above sea level, which seems to be the magic number for causing dry wells and sinkholes from appearing.

Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly referred to as SWFTMD, believe that if the farmers had pumped approximately 20% less water this past freeze, the swarm of sinkholes could have been avoided.

Some reports some that the aquifer was pumped to 60 feet below sea level during this last freeze.

How will it be solved?

This brings about an interesting debate between protecting the farmers’ livelihood and preventing another massive sinkhole infestation. Often times, those in Plant City who have had their residences affected by sinkholes are farmers themselves or have friends or family that are farmers.

It will interesting to see where this story ends up but we will certainly stay on top of it and updated as the debate goes on.

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