An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

228 Derelict Crab traps removed from Tampa Bay in Blue Crab Fishery closure

Tampa Bay Watch had a very successful derelict crab trap removal project on Saturday in which 228 traps were removed from Tampa Bay during Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's 10-day regional closure of blue crab fishing. Over 100 volunteers on 35 boats participated at six locations around the bay. 68 traps were collected in Belleair Bluffs, 78 in Boca Ciega Bay, 30 at Cockroach Bay, 27 in St. Pete at Demens Landing, 12 in Upper Tampa Bay at Courtney Campbell Causeway and 13 in Alafia River at Williams Park!

This event would not be possible without the help from dedicated volunteers and project partners including Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, ReelCycle, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Pinellas County & the City of Largo.

Attention Boaters! FWC has established new manatee protection zones for the state

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Manatee protection rules are established by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to restrict the speed and operation of vessels to protect manatees from being injured. Although the manatee species’ status was changed from endangered to threatened in March of 2017, there was a record number of manatees killed in Florida by boaters in 2016, so it’s imperative to obey speed zones. Click on the following links to see the maps of the updated speed zones.

Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, & links to all maps for the State of Florida.

Boaters needed for Great Bay Scallop Search

Don your snorkel and sign up quickly: The Great Bay Scallop Search date has been set for Saturday, August 26. The Tampa Bay Watch are recruiting 200 volunteer snorkelers to search for scallops in select areas within Boca Ciega and Lower Tampa Bay. The goal of the event is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population. Sign up fast for this free event, and help us tally up the bay scallop population in Tampa Bay!

They are recruiting volunteers with shallow draft boats. They have already filled all of our spots for canoes/kayaks and volunteer snorkelers without boats.

Click here to read more about the Scallop Search.

Registration fills up very quickly, so don't hesitate to sign up today!

Critics of DEP water rules now are more hopeful for appeals

Critics of state limits on toxic chemicals in waterways expressed optimism following an appeals court ruling on Tuesday that reversed the dismissal of legal challenges to the state standards.

In July 2016, a sharply divided state Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 during a boisterous meeting to approve new human health criteria despite opposition from environmental activists, some local governments and industry groups.

An administrative law judge threw out challenges filed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the city of Miami, the Florida Pulp and Paper Association and Martin County because he said they were filed late. But the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that Judge Bram D. E. Canter erred by siding with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in ruling that the deadline had passed.

District aims to reduce risk of wildfires by scheduling prescribed fires for Hillsborough County

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s recent drought. That’s why the Land Management Section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns during the months of July, August, and September on the Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area (LHFDA) in Hillsborough County.

The LHFDA property is located in the area of U.S. 301 and Morris Bridge Rd. near Thonotosassa. Approximately 725 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat
  • Maintaining access for public recreation

The District’s land management section conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year.

Nitrogen Management Consortium honored by research federation

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Nitrogen Management Consortium has received the inaugural Coastal Stewardship Award from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). The Consortium was honored for its long-standing, innovative public-private partnership to reduce nitrogen pollution in Tampa Bay.

CERF is a national federation of coastal and estuarine scientists and managers dedicated to advancing knowledge and wise use of estuaries and coasts. Every two years, CERF recognizes individual excellence in the fields of coastal and estuarine science, management and education through several scientific and service awards. This is the first year the Federation has honored an organization, project or program as well.

The awards committee noted that Tampa Bay's Nitrogen Management Consortium "demonstrated impressive achievements in all the key criteria considered important in the mission of CERF to promote the wise use of science and management toward the stewardship of estuaries and coasts around the world."

The Consortium, formed by TBEP in 1996, is comprised of more than 55 public and private entities from throughout the Tampa Bay watershed who work together to maintain water quality and seagrass recovery in the bay. NMC members include cities and counties, regulatory agencies and key industries such as fertilizer manufacturing, electric utilities and agriculture. Since 1996, the group collectively has constructed more than 500 projects to reduce nitrogen loadings in the bay, resulting in water quality equal to that of 1950. Tampa Bay also has regained 16,000 acres of seagrass, surpassing 1950s levels, at the same time our population has grown from 1 million to nearly 3 million.

"I have grown up on the bay and have watched the cycles of change and I know that TBEP has been a key part of its continued improvement. Hillsborough County is proud to have such an excellent program as TBEP contributing to the health and ongoing rehabilitation of the bay," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White.

The Consortium's success in engaging diverse stakeholders also was lauded by a sister watershed management program in Chesapeake Bay.

"We watched and learned from their extraordinary efforts to reach out and directly engage all the source sectors, local governments, businesses, and advocacy groups, and make them part of the shared decision-making process. They effectively blurred the lines between public and private, turning us and them into we," said Rich Batiuk, an EPA scientist who has been involved with the Chesapeake Bay Program for 25 years.

Learn more about the Nitrogen Management Consortium and all the 2017 CERF Scientific Award Recipients at http://www.erf.org/cerf-2017-scientific-award-recipients#Coastal

Divers protect over 1 million fish from invasive lionfish

Divers removed 1,079 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico, saving an estimated total of at least 1.6 million fish from the invasive predator during the fourth annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which concluded July 9 at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The Sarasota, Florida-based derby was a partnership effort among Mote, a world-class marine science institution, and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion, sanctions official lionfish derbies, and provided the estimate of the Sarasota derby's benefit to fish. This was the first derby in the 2017 Summer Lionfish Derby Series coordinated by REEF. Three upcoming derbies are accepting registrations at: www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.

The Sarasota derby from July 7-9 drew 14 teams, more than double last year’s six teams. Team divers vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County.

St. Pete City Council delays vote on consent order on sewage crisis

For more than a year, state Department of Environment Protection officials have been investigating the city’s sewage crisis in talks, eventually resulting in a proposed consent order that City Council members were poised to approve Thursday.

But that drawn-out process just got a little longer. Council chairwoman Darden Rice said Wednesday that council consideration of the item has been pushed back for at least a week.

City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch will incorporate suggestions from council members about the order and resubmit it to the DEP. The DEP had already signed it, Rice said.

The order, including costs, has $820,000 in penalties for the city’s discharge of about 200 million gallons since August 2015. The city will almost certainly forgo the fine by paying for pollution control projects of an equivalent amount. The order also mandates that the city spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading its system, something Mayor Rick Kriseman has already pledged to do.

Outside legal costs have topped $130,000 for the city to negotiate the order and defend against a federal lawsuit alleging the city violated the Clean Water Act.

New, intensive course fosters good water stewardship

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Become a Water Steward – Working With Water, Working With People

To make a difference concerning the issues surrounding water quality and quantity in our communities, we must understand the various ways in which we interact with water. As Floridians, we are connected to our oceans and bays by our faucets and laundries, to our neighborhood ponds and lakes by our yards and streets, and to our regional and statewide neighbors by our surface and groundwater supplies.

This new program will use expert presentations, online explorations, experiential learning, field experience in watershed science, and communication skills training to foster a greater understanding of these interactions and provide the tools necessary to become stewards of our water resources. During this seven-session course, participants will travel to locations across Pinellas County to explore the natural beauty, learn about emerging water issues, and meet with local experts. Classes will meet between August 22nd and November 4th. The cost for the seven-session course is $89.

Participants also will work together to produce a stewardship project that makes a difference in the community, will attend a relevant stakeholder meeting, and between class sessions will explore online resources to learn more about water.

This course has limited seating/availability. Register early to reserve your spot.

For more information about this course, please use the link below, or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County Natural Resources Agent, Lara Milligan, at lmilligan@co.pinellas.fl.us or 727-453-6905.

Tom Palmer: Problem of water use is not a new issue

To hear some political leaders discuss the increasing challenges of addressing water supply issues lately, you might think this is a relatively recent issue. The same goes for some of the approaches to storing water for future use.

I was reading something the other day about this topic.

“Our water resources can and will be exhausted unless we use them wisely and plan for some method of storing to be used in dry seasons,” it read.

This was from a Florida textbook titled “Florida: Wealth of Waste.” It was published in 1946.

Flash forward to 1973 and read a treatise written by Garald Parker (1905-2000). Parker was known as the “father of Florida groundwater hydrology” and the person credited with coining the term “Swiftmud” to refer to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. At the time, he was Swiftmud’s chief hydrologist and senior scientist.

He suggested more efficient irrigation, treating and reusing sewer discharges, building desalination plants, development of regional wellfield complexes and water distribution systems, capturing and storing storm runoff underground, and taking care not to mine the aquifer.

The last term refers to withdrawing water from the aquifer faster than it can be replenished by rainfall.

It has taken time, but many of these measures were eventually adopted in this part of the state.

Water Atlas program, faculty, Atlas sponsors receive FLMS Awards

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The USF Water Institute was one of five recipients of FLMS Awards of Excellence at the 2017 Florida Lake Management Society symposium in Captiva Island. Former USF Water Institute faculty member Jim Griffin was honored by the Society with its highest award, the Marjorie Carr Award, for lifetime achievement.

The USF Water Institute received the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award, given to individuals or organizations who report on aquatic resource issues, for its use of informatics to publicly disseminate data and supporting, explanatory information related to water resource management. The Water Atlas program is Institute's primary vehicle for distributing water information.

Dr. Jim Griffin, principal investigator for the Water Atlas program from 2005 until he retired in 2014, received the Marjorie Carr Award, the Florida Lake Management Society’s highest award. It is given for lifetime work on behalf of Florida’s aquatic resources. The award is named in honor of Marjorie Carr who, among other things, organized citizens and brought to an end the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Other 2017 FLMS award recipients:

  • Judy Ott received the Edward Deevey, Jr. Award, given to an individual for contributing to our scientific understanding of Florida’s water bodies. Edward Devey was an internationally recognized limnologist and was affiliated with the State Museum of Florida at the time of his death. Judy retired in March after nine years as program scientist for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.
  • The Seminole County SERV Program received the Dr. Daniel E. Canfield Jr. Volunteerism Award, given to a volunteer organization or outstanding volunteer for significant contributions to the research, restoration, and/or preservation of our water resources. The award is named after Dr. Daniel Canfield, founder of Florida LAKEWATCH, the pioneering citizen-volunteer water quality monitoring program involving over 1,200 lakes statewide, and now being emulated across the United States. The Seminole Education, Restoration and Volunteer (SERV) Program works to actively restore and educate people on how to protect the waterways and natural areas of Seminole County.
  • Nia Wellendorf, Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, received the FLMS Young Professional Award, presented to a young lake management professional who exhibits exemplary professional accomplishments and a commitment to water resource protection and management of our lakes and watersheds.

Mote’s shelf survey could help scientists improve red tide forecasts

While the circular rosette balancing six hydraulic tubes lightly breaks the surface of the water, scientists aboard the nearby boat scramble to hoist the machinery on deck.

Soon, they will open the tubes and pour each of the samples, taken at three different water depths, into a labeled container. As the rosette travels through the water, it collects data on temperature, salinity, water cloudiness and other factors that could play a role in the nutrients and organisms present.

The samples will then return to the lab, where scientists will filter and analyze them for particular elements, such as Karenia brevis, the toxic Florida red tide organism. The expedition is part of Mote Marine Laboratory’s shelf survey, a research project conducted every eight weeks at 14 stations within the West Florida Shelf, where scientists believe the red tide bloom originates.

Red tide is infamous for its effect on Florida beaches, marked by a bad smell, dead fish that wash up on shore and serious respiratory irritation in people. The harmful algae’s toxin can kill birds and other animals, including the iconic manatee; an estimated 300 manatees were killed by red tide in 2013.

Carcinogens found under Tampa's West River development site

TAMPA – Tampa’s commitment to tear down dilapidated public housing and redevelop 120 acres of land along the Hillsborough River is the largest redevelopment effort the city has ever undertaken. However, in addition to wearing the hats of developers, officials must also take on the role of environmentalists, as state reports show dangerous carcinogens have lurked beneath some of the site’s surface for years.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, high levels of vinyl chloride were detected in the area’s groundwater. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says the chemical is often used to make PVC, which is used in pipes, wire, cable coatings and packaging materials.

It can also cause cancer.

The toxins were traced back to a chemical company that once conducted business in the 1500 block of LaSalle Street.

That location is just blocks from North Boulevard Homes, the city’s oldest public housing project that the city started demolition on Thursday. Over the last 18 months, more than 800 families were moved from that complex and the nearby Bethune Homes to make way for the massive West River project.

But while families lived there, the vinyl chloride slowly spread, reaching the ground underneath the housing complex.

FWC asking for public’s help in tracking fish kills

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your help in monitoring fish health by tracking marine and freshwater fish kills in Florida.

FWC scientists monitor and document fish kills and diseases, as well as other aquatic animal health issues and associated environmental events. Many factors can contribute to a fish kill. The good news is that most natural water bodies are resilient to fish kill events.

The public can report fish kills to the FWC at MyFWC.com/FishKill or by calling the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. You can also submit a report through the “FWC Reporter” app on your iOS or Android mobile devices.

Scallopers get ready, more waters open for harvest starting July 1

Celebrate the Fourth of July with bay scallops. State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line will be open for scalloping starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close on Sept. 10. (See map.)

These new season dates are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons. Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can participate in. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.

The scallop season in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff worked with local community leaders on selecting these regional 2017 season dates.

At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. Staff will host public workshops to gather feedback after the season closes. To submit your feedback now on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.

Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.

Scallops must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.

There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.

Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed.

Trump administration moves to withdraw clean-water rule

The Trump administration moved Tuesday to roll back an Obama administration policy that protected more than half the nation's streams from pollution but drew attacks from farmers, fossil fuel companies and property-rights groups as federal overreach.

The 2015 regulation sought to settle a debate over which waterways are covered under the Clean Water Act, which has dragged on for years and remained murky despite two Supreme Court rulings. President Donald Trump issued an executive order in February instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind or revise the Obama rule, which environmentalists say is essential to protecting water for human consumption and wildlife.

In a statement, the agencies announced plans to begin the withdrawal process, describing it as an interim step. When it is completed, the agencies said, they will undergo a broader review of which waters should fall under federal jurisdiction.

Manatee County receives platinum certification from Florida Green Building Coalition

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Manatee County becomes Florida's first platinum-certified green government through Florida Green Building Coalition

The Florida Green Building Coalition recently announced Manatee County has become Florida's first platinum-certified county government. A host of initiatives led to certification, including the County's energy efficient downtown chiller plant, the countywide transition to single-stream recycling, and community events such as Manatee Libraries' Teen Recycled Fashion Show.

Manatee County achieved its initial Green Government recognition in 2011. By 2013, Manatee was a gold level green government. Platinum certification comes after years of effort led by Manatee County Energy Manager Diana Robinson and Manatee County Energy and Sustainability Coordinator Michelle Powers.

"Many months of fears, tears, but mostly cheers went into this certification process," Robinson said. "This is a remarkable achievement because we are surrounded by counties and cities that have been implementing sustainable and green programs longer than us. Manatee County has proven that with dedication and perseverance, you can accomplish wonders."

A host of initiatives led to certification, including the County's energy efficient downtown chiller plant, the countywide transition to single-stream recycling and community events, such as Manatee Libraries' Teen Recycled Fashion Show. The county's landfill gas generator has slashed energy costs in half at the Lena Road Landfill. Dozens of Manatee County's green and sustainable efforts are listed on the Coalition's website.

Robinson credited Manatee County's Green Team, County Commissioners and leadership who have remained committed to sustainable policies for years. Staff from Manatee County Public Works, Property Management and Utilities departments played key roles in achieving certification over time.

"We commend Manatee County, your Green Team and the leadership of Manatee County for pursuing certification," said C. J. Davila, FGBC's Executive Director. "This achievement demonstrates the county's commitment to protect and conserve the community’s natural resources, enhance the efficiency of government thus reducing the cost to taxpayers, and raise public awareness about the benefits of environmental stewardship."

Feeling bugged? Attend the Mosquito Control Open House Friday, June 30th

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As summer rains, high temperatures and humidity become the seasonal norm, Pinellas County is marking National Mosquito Control Awareness Week June 25 – July 1 with a crucial message to residents: breaking the mosquito cycle starts at home.

To help citizens learn more about how to prevent mosquito breeding, Pinellas County Mosquito Control will host an open house, Friday, June 30, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at 4100 118th Ave. N., Clearwater.

The event will give citizens the opportunity to ask technicians questions and tour the Mosquito Control facilities, including the helicopter, lab, mosquito fish tanks and other technologies.

“Drain and cover,” said Rob Krueger, entomology and education support specialist at Pinellas County Mosquito Control. “Drain sources of standing water around your home or workplace and cover exposed skin with EPA-approved mosquito repellents.”

Mosquito Control is encouraging citizens to do their part to reduce the mosquito population with some simple steps:

  • Empty water from any item that can hold water (examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets).
  • Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
  • Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
  • Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening.
  • Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drip areas, and around septic tanks and heat pumps.
  • Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

Technicians note that many local homes have items or areas that contain standing water – ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes – contributing to the mosquito problem. Mosquito larvae only need a fraction of an inch of standing water to survive.

Pinellas County is planning to host Tire Amnesty Days in the coming months to aid residents in the disposal of old tires, which can be breeding habitats for mosquitoes. Dates, locations and times will be announced soon.

Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease. Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. These simple preventative measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases.

Technicians are aggressively treating known breeding areas by ground and by air, as well as responding to calls from citizens.

In 2016, Mosquito Control received over 4,000 service requests from Pinellas County residents and businesses – with an average response time of 24 hours or less.

For more information about Pinellas County Mosquito Control, visit www.pinellascounty.org/resident/mosquito_control.htm.

Tarpon Springs renews push for money to dredge Anclote River

In a pocket formed at the end of a branch of the Anclote River, Kevin Meisman has seen the size of the boats coming by his family's business get smaller. c Over time, sand and debris have made the path to Quality T-Tops & Boats Accessories more shallow. It has become harder to service bigger boats that use a deeper draft, he said, and sometimes a high tide is the only way to get some through.

Although he doesn't place all the blame on the lack of dredging, which could clear silt in the river for more depth, he believes it has played a role in the shift in business.

"If more people are reduced to a certain type of boat they can use, then it means we're reduced to a certain type of work we can do," said Meisman, 37.

He has heard talk from the city for years that a dredging project was imminent, but money has been an obstacle.

Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed Tarpon Springs' request for about $920,000 in state funding toward dredging the river. Still, city officials plan to continue pushing for a project that many agree is long overdue.

According to an economic impact study the city submitted to the state and to Scott, the river supports nearly 150 businesses and about 2,500 jobs. Mayor Chris Alahouzos says it's the source of $252 million in marine commerce and tourism. He was surprised when he heard about the veto.

Tampa Bay Water approves 2018 budget, without raising prices

Florida’s largest wholesale water provider has approved a budget for next year, without raising prices to Tampa Bay-area consumers.

Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors approved the agency’s fiscal year budget Tuesday, keeping its wholesale drinking water rate at $2.56 per 1,000 gallons, for the seventh consecutive year.

“Tampa Bay Water’s board is committed to providing clean, safe and reliable water at an affordable price,” said TBW chief financial officer Christina Sackett.

The company expects a 7.2 million gallon per day increase in regional water demand, 4.4 percent up from 2017. Increased revenues from demand will offset the added $1.6 million needed for fixed and variable costs resulting from the higher usage.

Projected water needs to TBW member governments is 172.2 million gallons per day (mgd). The organization offers high-quality drinking water to member governments throughout the Tampa Bay region, serving more than 2.4 million residents. Counties and municipalities that get water from TBW — and share in the operating costs — include New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa, as well as Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

For 2018, three sources will provide Tampa Bay Water its water: 108.4 mgd of groundwater; 55.8 mgd of surface water and 8 mgd of desalinated seawater.

Increased demand will also allow TBW to add $4 million of pay-as-you-go funds to be used for capital improvement projects, renewal and replacement projects. Pay-as-you-go funds reduce the need to issue debt, which offers long-term savings.

TBW will not use any rate stabilization funds for 2018.