COUNTRYSIDE — Tampa Bay Water, the regional drinking water supplier to residents in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties and New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa, wants to hear from customers while it is developing long-term plans to meet drinking water demands.
“Public input is essential to our planning process,” wrote Michelle Stom, chief communications officer for Tampa Bay Water. “By working cooperatively with our member governments, community organizations, businesses and residents, we are able to improve our service to the Tampa Bay community.”
Residents within Tampa Bay Water’s service area are permitted to take the Long-Term Master Water Plan online at https://futurewater.org.
According to the survey, the nonprofit special district will select new water supplies to meet future needs based on three criteria: Reliability, Environmental Stewardship and Project Costs. The Tampa Bay region is expected to gain half a million people by 2030, increasing the demand for drinking water beyond the current supply.
The Tampa Bay region uses three different sources for drinking water: groundwater from 13 well fields in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties that tap the Floridan aquifer; surface water from the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers and the Tampa Bypass Canal; and the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Facility, in the Big Bend area of southern Hillsborough County.
There is a proposal to add a fourth source, reclaimed wastewater, to supplement drinking water supplies. At present, reclaimed wastewater is only used on the Suncoast for lawn and landscape irrigation.
One of the questions posed to survey participants is if they would drink reclaimed water that’s gone through an extensive cleaning, testing and monitoring process to ensure its safety. Language in the survey states that “all drinking water would meet or surpass the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act Standards.”
The survey continues by gathering opinions on some of its project concepts that could be implemented within the next 10 years. Expanding desalination production is one idea and that would include building a second seawater desalination plant near Duke Energy Florida’s Anclote Power Plant, in southwestern Pasco County, just north of Tarpon Springs, and expanding the existing desalination plant in Hillsborough County.
Specific to the Anclote Power Plant concept, a portion of water from the power plant’s cooling process would be diverted to the desalination plant, which would separate saltwater from fresh to produce high-quality drinking water.
Questions related to utilizing reclaimed water also provided brief animated videos explaining how high-quality reclaimed water could be injected into the Floridan Aquifer.
Any new project will come with associated costs and the survey attempts to gauge users’ feelings on how much they’re willing to pay as a result. Options range from nothing at all to $15 or more per month on water bills.
Results compiled from survey participants will be utilized as Tampa Bay Water’s nine-member board of directors continue to prepare for its December meeting when one or more projects will be selected to move forward for more study, design and permitting.