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Orlando water supply threatened due to rising COVID-19, could Jacksonville be next?

Orlando’s water supply is suddenly in jeopardy as surging COVID-19 creates shortage of liquid oxygen.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With demand for liquid oxygen surging along with COVID-19 cases, shortages are putting Orlando’s water supply in jeopardy. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer warned Friday that residents could soon face water shortages if they don’t begin reducing consumption immediately and several weeks to come.

Dyer explained that many COVID-19 patients depend on liquid oxygen for treatment, but that same oxygen is used by the Orlando Utilities Commission to treat water to potable levels.

Unless residents quickly and dramatically reduce their water intake by limiting irrigation, showers and other uses, Dyer said, they may soon face water shortages, or even a citywide boil water order.

Jacksonville also uses oxygen to treat water at two area facilities – one in the Greenland Road area and near the Urban Core, which pumps water under the river to homes in JEA’s southern grid.

The city’s water supply will not be affected by oxygen shortages, however, according to JEA officials. Unlike OUC, JEA uses oxygen only for aesthetic water improvements, like taste and smell, not to clean water for consumption. Ryan Popko, JEA Consulting Engineer, notes that oxygen treatment at the downtown facility was recently offline for several months for reasons unrelated to oxygen supplies, and it didn’t impact water supplies or even require customer notification.

He says JEA’s current supplier has not had problems getting liquid oxygen. “But both our systems could be shut off and it would not affect our supply or the quality of our water.”