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Here’s a look at Tampa Bay’s reclaimed water, and the future of reuse

Experts say utilizing reclaimed water is a vital way to keep up with Tampa Bay’s growing population and water needs.

There are a couple of things we can agree on.

Tampa Bay is growing. Like a lot. By 2050, some estimates say the region’s population will swell by nearly 1.5 million people, adding to the roughly 5 million who are already here.

And all those people need water.

Tampa Bay is lucky. The area is sandwiched by water. What we drink comes from three sources: rivers, groundwater from wells and desalinated sea water.

But there is another resource parts of the region draw upon to relieve pressure on our drinking supply — reclaimed water.

It’s a highly treated wastewater that is typically used by residents to water their lawns or gardens, and by businesses to cool equipment.

While some believe reclaimed water is a beneficial and cheaper option to supplement the area’s water supply, others have trouble getting past the “ick factor.”

“If we can somehow reuse our wastewater, then that helps us to conserve some of our groundwater resources, and we really need to do that in Florida,” said Mary Lusk, an assistant professor of soil and water sciences at the University of Florida.