KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. -- Every Friday morning, neighbors in Keystone Heights gather to pray for rain. The Lake Region has been known as a vacation hot spot, but over the past decade, those lakes have all but disappeared.
Decades of growth, pumping, and drought have left its lakes thirsty and dry.
"It affects our property values, our businesses, our quality of life and obviously our economy," says Mayor Mary Lou Hildreth.
Hildreth says the debates over what to do have lasted long enough, so on Tuesday, city council took action and made a $10,000 decision with hopes it will help bring the water back. The money is part of the $400,000 budget needed to design a pipeline that would recycle rainwater and reclaim storm water from around the region.
The water resource analysis is funded mainly by the St. Johns River Water Management District, which is fronting $200,000. The rest is broken down by the following: Clay County Utility Authority ($50,000), Clay County ($35,000), Save Our Lakes community group ($2,500), Lake Brooklyn Civic Association ($2,500).
A pipeline project could take years and tens of millions of dollars to build, and its quality and effectiveness are difficult to determine, which is why Hildreth says taxpayer money is being spent on a more scientific analysis.
"They should be able to prove that the yield will be sufficient enough to benefit our lakes and that will move the project forward. You want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck and that this is going to be the project that's going to do that."
It's just the first phase to finding a solution to save the lakes, but Hildreth says at least a solution is now in the works.
"We've finally got something on paper that's going to be done. We're not sitting around and talking about it anymore."
The water resource analysis will be conducted by GAI Consultants, a company contracted by the CCUA. The results are due to the city by March 2014.