Buckhorn backs bill letting utility own drinking, reclaimed water
Who owns the water flowing through your home's pipes?
State law says that all water in the state, whether in a well, river or toilet, is a public resource that belongs the people of Florida. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to change that. Buckhorn and state Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, collaborated on a bill pending in the Legislature that would make drinking water and reclaimed wastewater the property of the utility handling it. Buckhorn said Tampa needs that leverage to expand its reclaimed-based irrigation system. It has just 6,000 users, all in South Tampa. The city dumps more than 50 million gallons of treated wastewater — the equivalent of 75 Olympic swimming pools — into Tampa Bay each day for lack of other things to do with it. Like other mayors before him, Buckhorn sees expanding the city's reclaimed water system as crucial to ensuring the city has a reliable source of drinking water to help it grow. Today, about 40 percent of the drinking quality water pumped to the city's water customers ends up on their lawns. That became an issue in 2009, when drought forced city officials to ban the use of sprinklers in hopes of conserving 30 million gallons of water each week for drinking. By securing control over the city's reclaimed water supply, Buckhorn says he could lower rates to draw in more customers without having to worry about a regulatory agency swooping in and taking that water away.