A grant from the Northwest Florida Water Management District helped the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District increase the quality of its potable water supply while reducing the amount of water the system uses.

The water management district's grant of $343,152 helped complete a project that began in the early 2000s to end Eastpoint's reliance on a pair of coastal water supply wells. The wells showed signs of increased chloride levels and poor water quality from saltwater intrusion. Because of the increased chloride levels, the wells had to be flushed periodically.

The initial project saw the construction of two inland test wells, which were later converted to potable supply wells.

The Eastpoint district provides water for 1,536 residents in unincorporated Franklin County.

"Without support from the Legislature and the water management district, smaller communities throughout northwest Florida would have a hard time finding the funding for much-needed projects like these," State Sen. Bill Montford said. "The water management district and its governing board share my commitment to the rural communities in our area and I appreciate the local leaders in Eastpoint for their efforts in improving the quality of water for their residents."

The most recent project added a well pump, controls and backup generator as well as a transmission line and connections. These upgrades will allow Eastpoint to abandon the two coastal wells and use the two inland wells as the primary source for potable water for its customers.

The project also saw $39,581 in local matching funds, bringing the overall funding for the work to $382,733.

"This project not only helped the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District to alleviate the problem of salt water intrusion into our system, but also improve the water quality for the customers of the district," County Commissioner Ricky Jones said. "We are not a large district, but we will continue to pursue partnerships that will benefit the district and will benefit the Apalachicola Bay."

The newer wells feature improved water quality and also reduce the amount of water lost in the system from the older wells.

"This project ensures the residents of Eastpoint have access to a safe and reliable supply of water, which is another example of how the district's grant program has been such a success," District Governing Board member Bo Spring said. "Our district takes tremendous pride in working with local communities to fund these types of projects that make such a positive impact."

The funding is part of the Water Supply Development Grant program, launched in 2013, which has awarded funding for 70 projects totaling more than $21.6 million. These projects have helped local governments and utilities make potable water distribution system improvements, replace aging infrastructure, evaluate and develop alternative water supply projects, and address local drinking water quality issues. Two-thirds of the projects are in rural or financially disadvantaged communities.

For more information on projects funded under this program, please visit http://www.nwfwater.com/Water-Resources/Funding-Programs/Water-Supply-Grants.