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New pipeline, wells to mitigate Tampa Bay water shortage

Veronica Brezina

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Tampa Bay Water's water filtration and distribution facilities. All photos: City of St. Petersburg.

Tampa Bay Water is asking the community to conserve resources, as the Tampa Bay region is now in a Stage 1 water shortage. 

Declared under the regional water shortage mitigation plan, the shortage is due to below-average regional rainfall on a 12-month rolling average. Regional rainfall totals averaged 8.3 inches below normal over the past 12 months. When the rainfall deficit is more than 5 inches, it marks the initial stage of a shortage. 

“The idea of the [long-term water conservation] plan is to get ahead of it before it becomes a problem,” Tampa Bay Water General Manager Charles Carden said during the Oct. 12 St. Petersburg City Council meeting. 

The plan is updated every five years to adjust to a 20-year vision plan. 

The water sources in the budget.

Collectively, TBW pumps out 198 million gallons of water per day for Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg. The City of Tampa is an exception as it self-supplies 82 million gallons of water per day for residents. 

The wholesale rate, excluding Tampa, is $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. 

TBW’s diverse water supply system is designed to withstand dry conditions by tapping into the regional reservoir, and the seawater desalination plant.

TBW’s C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, the region’s water savings account, is nearly full at 14 billion gallons of its 15.5-billion-gallon capacity, which maintains the water supply to the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant.

“Hillsborough and Pasco are the fastest growing areas,” Carden said. He highlighted that St. Pete makes up 14% of the water demands. 

The group is working with Hillsborough to develop pumping and transmission capacity to increase their supply to southern Hillsborough County.

“The facilities we are building right now are booster stations to put five more million gallons a day into that area and a 66-inch pipeline from our regional system to southern Hillsborough County,” Carden said. 

Tampa Bay Water’s seven identified projects.

The construction of a new regional pipeline would deliver an additional 65 million gallons of water to Hillsborough County by 2028.

The project is one of the seven shortlisted concepts TBW is planning to implement throughout the region that will remove additional contaminants and access more fresh water. 

Another significant undertaking involves TBW turning a well in southern Hillsborough County into a drinking water production well. The well could help supply an additional 2.3 million gallons of water to Hillsborough County by 2026.

This project would rely on Hillsborough County continuing to recharge the salty portion of the aquifer along the coast, which it has done since 2015, while TBW develops a freshwater wellfield several miles inland, according to the organization. 

TBW also plans to expand the regional surface water treatment plant to deliver an additional 10 million gallons of water to the regional system by 2028.

As the organization breaks ground on the new projects, it’s promoting a rebate program for residents to incentivize water conservation, which could save up to 4 million gallons of water per day by 2030. 

“The City of Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have excess reclaimed water that could be used for indirect or direct use in the future,” Carden said. 

However, TBW would need to further evaluate the potable reuse alternatives as long-term solutions. 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Andy Evans

    October 19, 2023at8:29 am

    I never could understand why you cannot use reclaimed water to flush toilets. I seems to me to be the perfect use. We flush millions of gallons of fresh drinkable (potable) water. Yes you need to sanitize it and there are difficulties in water separation. (would need a dedicated plumbed line). We also waste so much grey water that could also be recycled, there are many systems throughout the world the collect and recycle grey water for use in non-potable applications. Then of course there is rain water collection and filtration. I have a system (not in Florida..yet) with underground tanks that collect roof run off, filter and sanitize it, it’s clean enough to wash your clothes in….and in some cases even drink, but that crosses a line….But in the future we will all need to do this.

  2. Avatar

    Page Obenshain

    October 16, 2023at3:26 pm

    What is the anticipated water usage and increased supply ten years from now with the overbuilding of housing units.

    If all builders were required to install 2 stage flush toilets, restricted showers, faucets, and the owners were required to retain those items, it would help. It seems unlikely that limited housing permits will be instituted.

    On Beach Drive about 12th Ave massive amounts of potable water are dumped into the street from a fire hydrant on a regular basis. What is up with that?

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