June 2019 marked Tampa Bay Water’s 21st anniversary. Formerly the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority, Tampa Bay Water was created as a regional utility in June 1998 to eliminate competition for water and economic disparity among the governments it serves.
Economic disparity among the members was a contributing factor to the region’s “water wars.” Some members had their own long-producing wellfields which provided inexpensive water. Others had no facilities and had to subscribe for water from newer, more expensive Authority-owned facilities. Others had a combination of owned facilities and subscriptions.
With varying rates for water, and subscriptions for water, it was impossible to develop new regional supplies to offset anticipated wellfield cutbacks, support environmental stewardship and supply growing demand. Simply put, there was no fair and equitable way to pay for regional solutions with the existing framework.
A regional utility with a uniform rate changed all that. The solution was simple — everyone pays the same price for quality water from the regional utility, regardless of source. To accomplish this, the members sold their regionally significant facilities to the new utility, which began charging a uniform rate in 1998.
That single rate for quality water includes all the costs necessary to run the utility and its facilities, debt acquired to purchase member facilities and to build new, alternative water supplies; renewal and replacement funds; a rate stabilization fund; and plans and initiatives to ensure adequate supply in the future.
The change to a uniform water rate remains a cornerstone of the utility’s governance restructuring, demonstrating the shift from parochialism to regionalism that made Tampa Bay Water possible. All members agreed to share in the cost of a regional water utility because when the region prospers, everyone benefits.