Southern Hillsborough County is one of the fastest growing areas in the region, and more people mean more water. Tampa Bay Water has several projects underway to meet this growing need and the utility’s board recently moved another project forward to bring an additional 2.3 million gallons per day (mgd) to the south-county area.
In March, Tampa Bay Water’s board approved an agreement with Hillsborough County and the pursuit of a groundwater permit to turn a test well in south Hillsborough County into a drinking water production well. The well is a smaller version of one of the three water supply projects that was studied during the 2018 Master Water Plan Update and could send an additional 2.3 mgd of water to Hillsborough County by 2026.
The South Hillsborough Wellfield via Aquifer Recharge Credits project was one of three feasibility studies in the 2018 Master Water Plan update. This project would rely on Hillsborough County continuing to recharge the salty portion of the aquifer along the coast, which it has done since 2015, while Tampa Bay Water develops a freshwater wellfield several miles inland. Tampa Bay Water constructed a test well in the Balm area of Hillsborough County in 2021 as part of this study. Staff and consultants performed extensive aquifer and water quality testing at this site and determined that it was a viable production well, but the wellfield project was not selected to move forward to construction in 2022.
Because the well is in the Southern Water Use Caution Area (SWUCA), no water can be withdrawn without being offset by another source and result in an additional positive effect within the same aquifer. The new well relies on Hillsborough County to continue to inject reclaimed water into their SHARP wells along the coast in a quantity consistent with the future water use permit to provide a net benefit to the aquifer. No reclaimed water would enter the drinking water supply.
Water from the well will go directly to Hillsborough County, instead of the regional system, to address immediate County needs, and the County is paying the same uniform rate for the water from this new well. The well would be used at least until the new South Hillsborough Pipeline is operational and beyond if both parties agree on extension.
“The water will be locally sourced and locally used to help meet the County's drinking water needs,” said Warren Hogg, chief science officer for Tampa Bay Water.
The other projects Tampa Bay Water has underway to meet drinking water needs are: