Look pretty much anywhere in Clermont and you'll see lakes, yet the fast-growing city is planning for a time when there's not enough drinking water to slake the throats of new residents, bringing growth to a halt.
So the city, with a lot of cash aid from the St. Johns River Water Management District, is looking for water where few have probed before, nearly 2,000 feet underground (a third of a mile) to the lower Floridan Aquifer.
Clermont, in conjunction with SJRWMD, is on the verge of digging a well that will answer the question of whether the deepest layer of the aquifer has water in the quantity and quality needed to supply the city's growth plans.
"Florida has several layers of water and this is the lowest layer, it appears to be a really great source of water," said Paul Roy, Clermont's environmental services director.
While the city promotes water-saving techniques, they can't guarantee there will be enough to fuel the city's planned future growth.
"We always push hard to conserve the water," Roy said. "But the truth is we are just going to need more. If this all works out right for the city we may have enough water for the future build-out of the city, as it expands its boundaries into the Wellness Way area in the future."
But nobody knows now for sure how much useful water at that depth will be available, until the project is done about a year from now.
Soon, huge well-digging rigs from New Jersey will chug into town and set up camp on Sunburst Lane, off of Hancock Lane behind the park where Clermont has a productive shallower well.
The plan is to dig the well, checking conditions frequently during the drill for the type of soil found at certain depths, what type of water is found at each depth, and testing for its salinity, PH level and temperature. A goal is to get down to the point where the water is too salty to drink, where seawater is found.
"It's a meticulous process," Roy said.
Clermont and SJWMD are sharing the nearly $2 million cost equally. While the city officials are hoping to tap into a bounteous source of drinking water, the SJRWMD is excited about getting information about the properties and potential of this mystery layer in the Earth.
"As much as we know about the Floridan aquifer system we have relatively few points into the lower Floridan," said Patrick Burger, senior project manager for the bureau of project management at SJRWMD. "This is a general area of the unknown."
While there are perhaps thousands of shallower wells all across Florida tapped into the upper aquifer, there are maybe as few as 30 to 40 in the lower aquifer, Burger said.
Central Florida, which relies heavily on well water, has fewer diverse sources for drinking water than other parts of Florida, said Burger. For example, the Tampa Bay area has water from the Hillsborough River, desalination, and wells. The diversity gives that region more options if one source fails, he said.