EXTENSIVE WATER CONSERVATION efforts are necessary in a region with limited water resources, as is the case in Broward County, Fla., which draws its potable water supply through the shallow limestone of the Biscayne Aquifer. “Limits on water availability, saltwater intrusion of wells, drought, and population growth all require that we invest in alternative water supplies," said Carolina Maran, Ph.D., P.E., water resources manager for Broward County's Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division. “The question is at what scale of investment? We have that ability to choose, based on our effective use of existing water sources—and water conservation is key.” Those alternative water supplies are more expensive than the existing main source, Maran noted. “We believe conservation is the cheapest, most cost-effective option to enhance and increase water supply sources.”
Maran coordinates with government agencies—local through federal—to support water resources planning and management, regulatory, and policy issues.
The Broward Water Partnership Conservation Pays Program is a collaboration among Broward County and 18 municipalities and water utilities working to promote water conservation and the WaterSense program. In 2017, the program earned an EPA WaterSense Promotional Partner of the Year award for its outreach and educational efforts and in 2018 was named a WaterSense Partner. Since its 2011 inception, the program has saved two billion gallons of water.
Maran held positions in private, academic and regulatory sectors before taking her current public sector position. “Water resources management needs coordination among all these sectors to achieve its goals,” she said. “Integrated water management, including surface and groundwater, is the key.”
While it’s difficult for small utilities to implement such programs alone, their collective expertise under the county’s direction helps each of them save money on community education, noted Maran. While 40 percent of surveyed residents know about the Conservation Pays program, they were unaware of regional water shortages or the connection between water conservation and climate change. The Partnership’s promotional initiatives include targeted campaigns and social media activity about water conservation, the county’s toilet rebate program, and additional water-saving devices.
The county has also partnered with home improvement stores promoting and offering rebates; some 2,600 toilet rebates were awarded in 2017. Additionally, 2,100 showerheads, nearly 2,000 faucet aerators, and hundreds of leak detection tablets were distributed to residents for free. The Partnership also offered 70 free WaterSense pre-rinse spray valves for high water users in the local restaurant sector. The NatureScape Irrigation Service, the county’s outdoor water conservation program, focuses on irrigation efficiencies, encompassing on-site evaluations, education, and water-saving device installations. “We offer several training opportunities on how to plan, monitor, and maintain yards in a way to save water,” said Maran.
What Led Her into This Line of Work
As Maran advanced through her academic career, her passion for water intensified. “I’m truly fascinated by water resources challenges in general,” she said. That includes other factors such as “stormwater management, flood risks, water supply, drought cycles and examining how future projections impact the county’s water management systems. Water conservation plays a very important role in planning for the future,” she said.
Maran earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture and urban planning and a master’s degree in water resources and environmental engineering from the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Brazil. She earned a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering at Colorado State University as a Fulbright Scholar.
What She Likes Most about Her Work
“I feel I contribute to our community in such a way that we are going to have more sustainable water resources in the future,” said Maran. “This is the key issue in Florida. I worked many years in Brazil, Colorado, and Wisconsin. But Florida is the place where I see the stronger connection with the community understanding the importance of water management as a resource for both human and environmental needs, including our precious Everglades.”
Her Biggest Challenge
“Climate change is our biggest challenge,” said Maran. “We are trying to understand how the projections—warmer temperatures, more intense storms coupled with sea level rise —will impact the management of the water system.” That encompasses understanding from decision-makers tasked with prioritizing where investments are needed to meet the challenge, she said.