Diagram of aquifer recharge
Aquifer Credit Pricing Agreement Critical to New Wellfield

Three water supply project options are being studied and considered as part of Tampa Bay Water’s Long-term Master Water plan. One or more projects will be chosen by the end of 2022 for final design and construction.

One of the projects under consideration is the South Hillsborough Wellfield via Aquifer Recharge Credits. This project could provide up to 6.1 million gallons of new water per day (mgd) to the region, if selected. Because southern Hillsborough County is designated a water use caution area by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the only way a new wellfield can be built in this area is if the water withdrawn is offset by another source, resulting in a net benefit to the aquifer.

Hillsborough County’s South Hillsborough Aquifer Recharge Project (SHARP) could create credits that would offset withdrawals Tampa Bay Water could make from a new wellfield in southern Hillsborough County. SHARP involves pumping reclaimed water into a salty, coastal zone of the aquifer that creates a mound of water near the coast which reduces the rate of saltwater intrusion into fresh groundwater and increases aquifer levels several miles inland.

But for the South Hillsborough Wellfield project to be considered, Tampa Bay Water and Hillsborough County must come to an agreement on the price of aquifer recharge credits by June 2022.

Tampa Bay Water finances and builds projects for the long term to ensure rate stability for the region and had initially requested a 30-year agreement, but Hillsborough County indicated it is not interested in a 30-year agreement.

Both Tampa Bay Water and the County are looking at other agreement terms that would work for both parties. One is a phased approach to building the wellfield, for instance, beginning with two or three production wells with a total yield of 2.4 million gallons per day, which could help the utility send much-needed water to the region sooner.

Tampa Bay Water staff and consultants are evaluating a phased approach to the wellfield as part of the current configuration of projects slated for board selection later this year. Hillsborough County and Tampa Bay Water staff have discussed limiting the initial agreement to 10-20 years, tied to the first phase of the proposed wellfield. Negotiations for credit pricing are ongoing.