Water. We turn on the tap and there it is. Most of us brush our teeth, shower, wash clothes, cook and more without ever considering where our tap water came from or how it got to our homes.
Most people in Tampa Bay get their water from Tampa Bay Water, through one of the utilities we service (Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey). Tampa Bay Water has a unique system that includes groundwater, river water (or surface water) and desalinated seawater. Surface water currently makes up about one-third of Tampa Bay Water’s total supply. Surface water is provided through our Enhanced Surface Water System, a complex arrangement of sources, pumps, pipelines, storage and treatment that must perform across a wide range of flow and water quality conditions.
Tampa Bay Water taps two primary sources for surface water: the Tampa Bypass Canal and the Alafia River. The Tampa Bypass Canal, which was built by the Army Corp of Engineers as a flood control structure, provides the majority of water to the Enhanced Surface Water System. Up to 258 million gallons per day can be withdrawn, depending on flow conditions and elevations in the canal. The canal is also used by the City of Tampa to augment the Hillsborough River, so Tampa Bay Water’s use is closely coordinated with the City of Tampa’s.
Water withdrawn from the Alafia River also follows a conservative withdrawal schedule to protect the river system. Up to 60 million gallons per day can be withdrawn from the river, depending on flows.
The Enhanced Surface Water System is designed to operate in a variety of modes. Raw water is sent to the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant for treatment, but can also be sent to the 15.5-billion gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir for storage and later use. Additionally, raw water can be stored in tanks at the Regional Repump Station. Treated surface water is blended with desalinated seawater at the High Service Pump Station, which also pumps water into Tampa Bay Water’s distribution system.
Expanding our surface water system is one option under consideration to meet the region’s long-term water needs, so accurately forecasting the reliability of this system is vital to future planning. Tampa Bay Water is working closely with the City of Tampa and the Southwest Florida Water Management District on a comprehensive management plan for the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bypass Canal to ensure optimal use of our shared resources.