For 40 years, Jones Edmunds has been a leader in protecting Florida’s environment, providing water, utilities and other infrastructure services to growing numbers of residents and businesses, and creating solutions to ensure a better quality of life. Just as the firm grew in response to the changing needs of Florida, the company is optimally positioned to do the same in coming years.
Headlining the list of challenges is Florida’s aging infrastructure. In 2012, the Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers issued the state a C- cumulative grade on its infrastructure report card. The ranking, conducted by the organization every four years to grade the conditions of 11 infrastructure entities, is slightly worse than the grade Florida received in the organization’s original report card in 2008. The grade ranking the state’s Coastal areas dropped from a C+ to a D-; energy from a D+ to a D; flood control from a C to a D+; stormwater from a C+ to a C; and water and sewer from a B- to a C.
The association estimates that $12.8 billion is required over the next 20 years for Florida’s drinking water infrastructure needs, with an additional $19.6 billion to provide wastewater support over that same timeframe.
Jones Edmunds leaders have several specific views on these challenges and the role they’ll play in helping address them, as well a range of opportunities on the horizon for Florida’s communities.
Aging Infrastructure and Continued Growth
Infrastructure supports civilization. Yet municipal infrastructure is not being adequately added to or upgraded. Roadways, bridges, above ground and underground utilities, water and wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations all need smart upkeep and repair/rehabilitation. Florida is ahead of the game in many ways, but infrastructure failures will happen without a proactive look at what our needs are and how to address them. This is especially true in an era of continued population growth.
The engineers at Jones Edmunds share a strong interest and concern in the future of Florida’s water resources. Protecting Florida’s springs, lakes and rivers will require an integrated approach that balances the social, environmental and economic values of local communities. To Jones Edmunds, this means engaging stakeholders, advancing partnerships and applying the best available technologies to implement solutions. Achieving the best solutions with the lowest life cycle costs will require multi-track innovation in low-impact development, conservation, water reclamation, stormwater harvesting, aquifer recovery, desalinization, septic tank conversion, and basin management techniques.
Sea Level Rise
As sea level rise continues, local governments must take a different approach to how they go about roadway and utilities design, the placement of lift stations, and the placement of piping. Jones Edmunds views sea level rise as an opportunity to use GIS systems to look through pervious and impervious layers and find where water truly gets absorbed and where it runs off. In other words: avoiding vulnerability to sea-level rise starts with understanding where things stand today.
As the Panama Canal expands to double its capacity and accommodate larger vessels likely by spring 2015, trade through Florida will remain competitive only if our ports can handle super tanker vessels and ships. This not only requires the deepening of Florida channels, but other fundamental infrastructure adjustments including a new approach to the placement of power lines that cross waterways, and upgraded design for roadways and rail for the transport of goods in and out of ports. The engineers at Jones Edmunds see great promise for Florida’s economy as they lead in these advances.
Biosolids, Waste, and Energy
Local governments have historically been able to reuse their biosolids through land application, but this practice has become increasingly less viable. Local governments will be forced to find and implement new technologies to treat sludge to a higher degree. One of the most effective opportunities is the use of modern anaerobic digestion at wastewater plans — and the use of organisms to generate gas and electricity. Jones Edmunds sees these technologies as a great opportunity for tackling multiple infrastructure needs through common approaches.
As an example of innovation, Jones Edmunds has been working with St. Johns County on a stormwater harvesting project — tackling the region’s problems with algae blooms and river pollution. The firm has taken a creative look at the inputs that feed these problems (such as nitrogen-rich fertilizer) and is working to harvest runoff so that farmers may reapply it to irrigation. Jones Edmunds has similar projects in Polk and Pinellas Counties. These solutions represent a huge opportunity for cost-effectively improving water quality and usage throughout the state.
Jones Edmunds’ history is one of technology creativity: tackling problems not only with the tools that have been developed already, but with the building of new, adaptable models. As Florida becomes the third most populous state in the nation in 2014 — bringing challenges and opportunity alike– Jones Edmunds will be there to ensure our communities are supported with smart, reliable, cost-effective infrastructure.