15 Years of Regional Cooperation, Solutions
Fifteen years ago, on June 10, 1998, state and local elected officials from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties were joined by the late Governor Lawton Chiles at the Florida Aquarium to sign the legislation and governance documents that created Tampa Bay Water as a true regional utility.
The signing ceremony was the culmination of two years of hard work and negotiation that marked a paradigm shift on water issues. Each local government moved from its parochial perspective to a regional commitment focused on cooperation, solutions and environmental stewardship.
Some 200 elected officials voted on the utility’s governance restructuring, which facilitated the development of new supplies:
- The member governments’ 40 local elected officials had to review and approve the Interlocal Agreement and Master Water Supply Contracts;
- 160 members of the Florida legislature had to review and pass the legislation; and
- The late Governor Lawton Chiles signed the legislation into law.
While there have been challenges along the way, the agency’s new structure has been a success for the entire region. Alternative supplies, like river water and desalinated seawater have served our region for more than 10 years, groundwater production has been reduced to environmentally sustainable levels, and Tampa Bay Water continues to plan for the future to ensure adequate drinking water for the next 15 years.