Tampa Bay is a great place to live, work and play. It’s a prime destination for people moving into the state of Florida, and growth in the area is booming. From 1980 to 1990, population in the Hillsborough-Pasco-Pinellas tri-county region more than doubled to 1.9 million. By 1998, the area’s population exceeded 2 million. And today, more than 3 million people live in the tri-county area with more growth expected.
Along with a temperate climate and a lower cost of living, the area is home to an abundance of parks, beaches and wetlands. People live and move here for a variety of reasons, but one thing is certain: they all need water.
Tampa Bay Water, the region’s wholesale drinking water supplier, provides clean, high-quality drinking water to more than 2.5 million people in the Tampa Bay region. And we do so in a way that carefully balances our communities’ needs for water with the need to protect and preserve our environment. We depend on the same water for drinking as we do for recreation, and wildlife couldn’t live without it. We have thriving lakes and wetlands today, but that wasn’t always the case.
Over the past 20 years, Tampa Bay Water built a diverse, interconnected system to meet the region’s drinking water needs, reduce reliance on groundwater while supplying water in an environmentally sound manner.
Prior to Tampa Bay Water’s creation, groundwater was the only regional drinking water source, and the local governments that make up our utility were all separately permitted to pump water. Rapid population growth created the need for more water. Concentrated groundwater withdrawals combined with a multi-year drought, increased urbanization and changes in surface water flow patterns, caused damage to the surrounding environment. Some lakes and wetlands in the area completely dried up, significantly harming the natural ecosystem and causing much public concern.
In the more than 20 years since our creation, Tampa Bay Water has reduced groundwater withdrawals by nearly 50 percent by building alternative water supplies such as river water and desalinated seawater. This has allowed the environment to recover.