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Pinellas commissioners receive update on regional water projects

CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay Water has supplied drinking water for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, as well as New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa for 20 years. The new agency, created in 1998, ended the “water wars” of the past and instituted a new regional approach to meet the needs of residents and businesses in west-central Florida. Instead of 100 percent of the supply coming from pumping groundwater, 34 percent now comes from treating surface water and 3 percent from desalination. To ensure the supply will meet the growing demand, the interlocal agreement between the member governments requires Tampa Bay Water to look to the future with a 20-year outlook. In December, the Tampa Bay Water Board approved a new long-term master water plan.

Matt Jordan, general manager, updated Pinellas County Commissioners on the process during a Jan. 15 work session. He said projections show that Tampa Bay Water will need to supply more water by 2028; however, there will be a need for more water for south Hillsborough County by 2025.

“We have capacity, but not where it is needed,” he said.

The Board considered potential new projects and “shortlisted” three, including a new groundwater treatment plant, expansion of the surface water treatment plant and expansion of the desalination facility.

Much of the work session was spent talking about the Tampa Augmentation Project, which involves taking highly treated reclaimed water and injecting it into the Floridan Aquifer and then drawing it back out to supplement the potable water supply. If the project were to prove successful, it could produce enough water to reduce regional demand and delay the need for new regional water facilities.