Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

District celebrates start of pilot test for Black Creek Water Resource Development Project

March 25, 2021

All of us at the St. Johns River Water Management District are pleased to be kicking off pilot testing in Clay County to refine the design of a water color treatment that is a component of the Black Creek Water Resource Development (WRD) Project. The Black Creek WRD Project is among several identified in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan to help meet future water supply demands while protecting natural resources.

As you can see in the side-by-side comparison above, a post-treatment sample collected as the project got underway shows a clear color improvement from the raw water sample from Black Creek!

As part of our core missions work for natural systems, the District’s Governing Board recently approved $1.2 million in funding for the water treatment pilot test and treatment system design for the Black Creek project. The primary goal of the Black Creek WRD Project is to increase recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer in northeast Florida in the Keystone Heights region and Lower Santa Fe basin using excess flow from Black Creek. The pilot study results will be used to determine full-scale operations and provide value engineering of design that may lower capital and operation and maintenance costs.

A side-by-side comparison of a post-treatment sample collected (left) shows a clear color improvement from the raw sample.

A side-by-side comparison of a post-treatment sample collected (left) as the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project gets underway shows a clear color improvement from the raw sample.

During the initial work to pursue a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this project, the District investigated alternative treatments to remove the color of natural tannins from Black Creek’s water prior to disbursement to Keystone Heights region lakes. We looked at more than 30 treatment alternatives based on their ability to treat the water for color as well as general capital costs, along with requirements for construction and operation.

The District’s team decided on a proprietary biological and passive treatment technology provided by the Sustainable Water Investment Group (SWIG). CDM Smith has designed and will conduct the pilot study and is subcontracting with SWIG to provide materials and general oversight. The pilot study will take 6-8 weeks to complete. Water from Black Creek will be run through the SWIG system to simulate full-scale operation with water quality parameters tested following treatment.

Once operational, the full-scale project will divert up to 10 million gallons per day from the South Fork of Black Creek during wet-weather, high flow periods. As a secondary benefit, the project is expected to contribute to regional minimum flows and levels recovery and may help improve water levels in lakes and the Alligator Creek system, including drought-stressed lakes Brooklyn and Geneva.

The funding for this project was provided in the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights Lake Region Projects legislative appropriations over three years beginning in 2017. The total appropriation was more than $48 million. Of that total, nearly $43.4 million was allocated to the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project. The appropriation was championed by Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island (who currently serves as the District’s Governing Board Vice Chairman), Rep. Bobby Payne of Palatka, and Rep. Travis Cummings from Orange Park. The District is also contributing $5 million toward the project.

Many thanks to our Governing Board, state legislators, the District’s Black Creek pilot project team and our contractors for helping to get the study underway and moving us closer to completing this important water resource work.

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