In reviewing water supply and demand for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2017, Tampa Bay Water staff reported that the agency successfully endured a year of extreme weather, from one of the driest springs on record to one of the biggest hurricanes to hit our region.
From October 2016 through April 2017, warm, dry weather caused water levels in rivers to plummet and demand for water to spike. In fact, water levels were so low in the Hillsborough and Alafia rivers that Tampa Bay Water could not withdraw any surface water from roughly December through May. Meanwhile, regional demand hit one of the highest levels in recent history in May, exceeding 290 million gallons per day. The Tampa Bay region as whole saw one of the highest annual demands for water in a decade.
But our region was able to successfully tolerate this extreme weather thanks to the regional foresight that created a diverse regional water supply. When surface water could not be withdrawn from rivers, Tampa Bay Water relied on water stored in the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir as well as its desalination plant and the region’s wellfields. And as summer rains and tropical activity improved stream flow, Tampa Bay Water was able store water in the reservoir. As of Oct. 16, the reservoir is storing just over 14 billion gallons and is expected to be full by Nov. 1 in time for the upcoming dry season.
Weather forecasters are once again predicting a greater chance of dry and warm winter and spring for the Tampa Bay region. We will continue working with the governments we serve to deliver high-quality water to meet the region’s needs, come rain or shine.
At all times during Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay Water was able to meet its member governments’ water needs, despite losing commercial power at all but one location. The utility accomplished this through sound planning and preparation.
The utility’s Incident Command System and hurricane preparedness plan were activated on Sept. 5. Staff began taking steps to fuel vehicles and generators, top off chemical storage tanks, verify hurricane supplies and food, and assigned essential personnel. In total, 30 Tampa Bay Water employees weathered the storm at key facilities, which also accommodated three managers from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
To avoid unplanned and unexpected shutdowns, Tampa Bay Water switched certain critical facilities to generator power before the storm hit. This ensured continuous production even when commercial power was lost on Sunday, Sept. 10. Close coordination with the member governments’ operations staff and with commercial power providers also played an important role, and by Sept. 14, commercial power was restored to all facilities.
Meeting the Needs of Fast-growing South-Central Hillsborough
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hillsborough County is one of the top 10 fastest growing counties in the country based on population growth from July 2015 to July 2016. An influx of residents means increased water needs, and Hillsborough County’s demand projections for its south-central service area show a faster rate of growth than previously projected.
To ensure supply keeps pace with demand, Tampa Bay Water is working closely with the County to update demand projections and explore options to expand delivery capacity.
The south-central Hillsborough service area is currently served by three points of connection, but there are some limitations in the existing infrastructure. To accommodate Hillsborough’s growing demand, Tampa Bay Water will explore the following delivery options:
- The County expanding its distribution system
- Tampa Bay Water installing pumps or parallel piping to expand the regional system
- Adding a new point of connection from the regional system
Tampa Bay Water will recommend a delivery option or options for Board consideration in the coming months.