In the late 1960s, a group of Bonita Springs civic leaders saw the need for a central water system to serve the growing community and its future citizens. The Bonita Springs Water System, Inc. was conceived – a member-owned, not-for-profit utility. It was incorporated in January 1970 by local residents to provide potable water service to homes and businesses in Bonita Springs. In February 1970, the Lee County Commission granted a franchise for the original service area in unincorporated Lee County.
Original water plant groundbreaking, 1971
Six production wells approximately 100 to 120 feet deep provided the first potable water service in late 1971. Water was drawn from the Lower Tamiami Aquifer and treated through a lime softening process. The Utility expanded slowly at first to serve additional customers in the Bonita Springs area.
Over the years, the utility extended the water system as the population grew. In 1975, the utility expanded the water treatment plant to a capacity of 1.5 million gallons per day. By 1977, there were 11 wells. Eventually, the water treatment plant was expanded to a capacity of 3 million gallons per day and the utility constructed an elevated storage tank out on the beach. By 1986, the company served more than 10,000 residential, commercial and RV units under the leadership of longtime General Manager Fred Partin.
Water Treatment Plant expansion, 1982
Also in the mid-1980s, Bonita Bay Properties came to town, beginning an era of unprecedented growth. Its 2,400-acre, master-planned community, and others that followed, prompted dramatic action by the water company board.
In 1987, a plant expansion doubled capacity to six million gallons per day. A new well field was developed. The company worked with the Lee County Industrial Development Authority to issue tax exempt bonds for low-cost borrowing.
The community we live in today was taking shape. The Board of Directors, elected by their neighbors, continued to meet the challenge of the growing population.
In the 1990s, Bonita Springs Water Systems got into the wastewater business, and rebranded itself as Bonita Springs Utilities, Inc. The utility pioneered community-wide wastewater service by purchasing a wastewater treatment plant from Bonita Bay and expanding it to serve the greater Bonita area.
BSU installed a backbone grid of force mains, allowing 40 package plants to be taken out of service. Instead of a bunch of small, cheap, and often unreliable package treatment plants, Bonita Springs was connected to a large, centralized system that was much more efficient.
Reverse Osmosis Plant Groundbreaking
BSU continued efforts to protect local waterways by initiating a gravity expansion program in 1995 and replacing septic tanks with central sewer service. Septic tank drain fields leach nutrients and wastewater into the soil and eventually into local waterways. By treating wastewater more efficiently, and using the by-product for irrigation, a source of pollution is eliminated and millions of gallons of water are saved each day.
With the construction of the East Wastewater Reclamation Facility and its dryer system, even the bio-solid waste is reused and made into fertilizer pellets, allowing for 100 percent reuse.
East Water Reclamation Facility aerial, August 2007
As Bonita Springs and Southwest Florida continued its astounding growth, the utility kept pace, meeting demand. In the early 2000s, BSU added three remote water storage tanks, the Reverse Osmosis Treatment Plant, the East Water Reclamation Facility, and the Operations Service Center.
East Water Reclamation Facility aerial, August 2007
Also in 2000, the City of Bonita Springs incorporated. A large portion of the BSU service area is now included in the City. The company’s interest in conservation led it to its 2012 adoption of compressed natural gas fueling system for its company vehicles and treatment plants. In 2015, the Village of Estero also incorporated and BSU continues to serve many of its residents.
In 2016, a new two-story Administration Building was completed, housing the utility’s administration, finance, engineering and information technology departments in one location.
In 2018, the Board of Directors authorized the first retirement of capital credits in the utility’s history.
$2.97 million in capital credits was paid out to members who received service during the years 1988, 1989, 1992, 1997 and 2005. Since then, the Board has authorized the retirement of all capital credits.
A total of $11.1 million has been returned to members.
In 2019, the new Customer Service Center was completed, replacing the original building. That year, the 151-foot Hickory Boulevard Water Tower was dismantled and removed. The 500,000-gallon water storage tank was constructed in 1982 to aid in delivering water service to thousands of members.
Hickory Boulevard water tower demolition, March 2019.
In 2006, BSU replaced the aging water main along Hickory Boulevard and established a water interconnect with Fort Myers Beach in 2009, both of which reduced the water tank’s need. The water tank was taken out of service in 2014, which helped reduce flushing and improve water quality.
The 151-foot Hickory Boulevard water tower was dismantled and removed in March 2019. The 500,000-gallon water storage tank was constructed in 1982 to aid in delivering water service
In March 2020, BSU activated its Emergency Response Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic. The utility implemented precautions and safety measures, including additional sanitation and disinfection efforts. As essential service providers, the staff worked hard to meet the needs of members 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by delivering safe, reliable potable water and wastewater service.
Mike Holland running mixed liquor tests
Kenny Farmer and Brandon Kronstedt calibrating flow meter
Today, more than 130 BSU employees serve over 31,000 members with water and wastewater service across the City of Bonita Springs, the Village of Estero, and unincorporated South Lee County. The utility is recognized as an industry leader with awards from the American Water Works Association, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Water Environment Association.