Florida, and Tampa Bay in particular, are among the fastest-growing populations in the United States. The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Florida ranks No. 1 in total net migration (the difference between people moving in and out of the state), with nearly 444,500 people relocating to the Sunshine State between July 2021 and July 2022. The Tampa Bay area added more than 123,000 residents during the same timeframe, with Hillsborough County earning the designation as the tenth-fastest growing county in the nation. As the population grows, so does the need for more drinking water.
Tampa Bay Water, the region’s wholesale drinking water utility, meets the region’s future water needs in a sustainable, reliable and fiscally responsible manner through its Long-term Master Water Plan. Updated every five years, this plan looks at a 20-year horizon for water supply and demand. The plan identifies when new supplies will need to be built by considering demand forecasts, water shortage mitigation strategies and demand management, and what to build by considering new water supply projects, optimization of existing assets and facilities, where and how to deliver the water, and public input.
Tampa Bay Water’s current supply is expected to meet the region’s drinking water needs through 2028 with the expansion of the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant. Projections show that the fast-growing Tampa Bay region will need an additional 25 million gallons of water per day (mgd) by 2043, with 10-20 mgd of that needed by 2033.
For the last year, staff and consultants have been investigating options for one or more new water supply projects to provide water to the region in the 2033 timeframe. More than 120 project concepts were evaluated using screening criteria to arrive at a shortlist of seven options that are recommended for further study:
In addition to the shortlisted projects, Tampa Bay Water will evaluate potential direct and indirect potable reuse projects for future consideration. These developmental alternatives are projects that require longer feasibility studies, additional investigation or need time for regulations to be implemented. Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, and Pinellas County all have excess reclaimed water that could be used for either direct or indirect reuse projects in the future.
Public input is an important part of the Long-term Master Water Plan process. Tampa Bay Water hosted a virtual telephone town hall meeting Sept. 14 to discuss the shortlist options and gain resident feedback. An average of approximately 1,500 residents stayed on the call for 10 minutes; approximately 150 residents stayed on the call for the duration of the meeting. Feedback from the town hall, multiple community meetings and several technical, environmental and economic ad hoc meetings will be incorporated into the report that will be presented to Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors.
In November, the board will consider approving the 2023 Long-term Master Water Plan update, including the project shortlist. If approved, the shortlisted projects will then undergo more detailed feasibility studies, which will take about two years to complete. The studies will refine potential yields, costs, permittability and include more community engagement. Only feasible projects will move to the water supply selection phase, where they will be evaluated individually or in groups. The final project or group of projects selected will move forward to design and construction.
Learn more about the Long-term Master Water Plan, including the criteria used to evaluate projects at futurewater.org.