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Southern Hillsborough County is one of the fastest growing areas in the Tampa Bay region. It is also designated a Water Use Caution Area by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District). To address growing water needs in this area, the District has adopted the “net benefit” concept where any new withdrawal from the aquifer must be offset by another source and result in an additional positive effect within the same aquifer.
Once the sole source of drinking water in the Tampa Bay region, groundwater still makes up the majority of Tampa Bay Water’s system with 13 regional wellfields in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
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Using this approach, a new wellfield could be developed in southern Hillsborough County by purchasing aquifer recharge credits from Hillsborough County via its South Hillsborough Aquifer Recharge Project (SHARP). SHARP involves pumping reclaimed water into a salty, coastal zone of the aquifer. Pilot studies show that the recharge water increases pressure and creates a barrier that prevents saltwater intrusion into fresh groundwater. It also increases aquifer levels several miles inland from the recharge well location. This increase in groundwater levels enables freshwater withdrawals 5 miles inland to supply the area’s growing drinking water needs. No reclaimed water is withdrawn for drinking due to the distance from the recharge wells and the east-to-west flow of the aquifer.
South Hillsborough Wellfield via Aquifer Recharge Credits Details
The proposed 7.5-million gallon per day (mgd) groundwater wellfield will require:
Aquifer recharge can increase water levels so fresh groundwater can be withdrawn and treated to high-quality drinking water standards in an environmentally sound manner. Because groundwater naturally flows westward to the Gulf of Mexico, no reclaimed water that’s injected into a SHARP well will make its way upstream to a withdrawal well.
- Hillsborough County to continuously operate SHARP at 10 mgd to generate withdrawal
credits of approximately 7.5 mgd that may be purchased by Tampa Bay Water.
- Eight new production wells, piping, water treatment facilities, a storage tank and pumping
facilities to be be located on Hillsborough County-owned land near the intersection of
Balm and Balm Riverview roads. If built, this project could potentially be expanded to 20
mgd to meet the region’s drinking water needs in the 2040 timeframe.
Tampa Bay Water has studied the feasibility of this project since 2019. Remaining tasks include:
- Conducting an aquifer performance test at a newly-installed test well site to confirm
water quality, yield, and treatement requirements.
- Finalizing discussions and agreements with Hillsborough County regarding recharge
- Updating groundwater modeling and associated yields based on Hillsborough County’s
final aquifer recharge well locations.
- Developing a conceptual design for new groundwater treatment plant.
Tampa Bay Water conducted focus groups, public opinion surveys, telephone town halls
and speakers bureau presentations to obtain input used in the Long-term Master Water Plan.
Public outreach will continue for those projects selected for continued evaluation.
Long-term Master Water Plan
This project is one of three top-ranked projects under further evaluation to meet the region’s drinking water needs in the 2028 timeframe. The potential projects are the culmination of five years of analysis though Tampa Bay Water’s Long-term Master Water Plan. This 20-year framework for meeting the region’s future drinking water needs includes analyses of future demand, conservation potential, supply reliability, water shortage mitigation planning and hydrologic uncertainty along with potential water supply projects to ensure adequate drinking water in the future. For more information, visit tampabaywater.org/future-drinkingwater-sources.