Reclaimed Water Pipes
Tampa Bay Water Monitors Tampa’s PURE Project

Wastewater utilities across the state are researching how to handle reclaimed water, as Senate Bill 64 approved in the 2021 Florida Legislative Session restricts them from releasing it in a nonbeneficial form back into surface water bodies by 2032.

The City of Tampa has been looking into beneficial uses for its reclaimed water since the 1990s when it introduced the Tampa Water Resource Recovery Project, with which the City partnered with Tampa Bay Water in 1998 during the utility’s formation. Other projects seeking to use the City’s reclaimed water include the Downstream Augmentation project in 2002, a far-reaching project that included partnerships with Tampa Bay Water, Pasco County, Hillsborough County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. In 2019, Tampa proposed the Tampa Augmentation Project or TAP.

The City’s current reclaimed water proposal is PURE (Purify Usable Resources for the Environment), which aims to redirect up to 50 million gallons per day (mgd) of reclaimed water and repurpose it for beneficial use. The City’s studies from this latest project outlined several options for beneficial use:

  • pumping the treated reclaimed water into the aquifer and then withdrawing it
  • adding the reclaimed water to the Hillsborough River Reservoir
  • selling it to another water utility
  • sending it deep underground using deep well injection, and
  • direct potable reuse, as in treating the reclaimed water to drinking water standards and putting it directly into the drinking water supply.

According to the City’s website, the goal of PURE is to help the City meet the minimum flows for the Lower Hillsborough River, increase the reliability of the City’s drinking water supply and comply with the requirement of the 2021 Florida Senate Bill 64 to reduce or eliminate all surface water discharges of reclaimed water.

In July 2021, the City of Tampa approached Tampa Bay Water about purchasing 20 mgd of its reclaimed water for regional supply, and the utilities have met several times since then to discuss the concept. At the January 2022 Tampa Bay Water board meeting, General Manager Chuck Carden gave an update on the PURE project as it relates to the utility. He said Tampa Bay Water’s interest include:

  • understanding the technical aspects of the proposal and what potential positive or negative effects it would have on the regional water system
  • understanding whether the various alternatives would comply with the Amended and Restated Local Agreement among Tampa Bay Water’s member governments and
  • exploring potential partnering opportunities with the City, which may include the purchase of reclaimed water as a regional drinking water source or the ability to draw more water from the Harney Canal/Tampa Bypass Canal for regional use.

From 2016-2018, Tampa Bay Water explored several options for using reclaimed water in its Long-term Master Water Plan update. Those projects, which included expanding the South Hillsborough Aquifer Recharge Project (SHARP) system or as a supplemental source for the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, were taken out of the current Long-term Master Water Plan when Tampa rescinded its offer to sell reclaimed water to Tampa Bay Water. With the current offer, Tampa Bay Water has contracted with Black & Veatch, the utility’s integrated program manager, to evaluate whether to include reclaimed water concepts using the City’s reclaimed water in our 2023 Long-term Master Water Plan update or if any of the current projects being considered for the next water supply could be expanded.

“We could consider the City’s 20 mgd of reclaimed water in our current projects, but it is more likely that we would consider these concepts in our next round of Long-term Master Water Plan projects to give us time to complete the feasibility studies and gain public acceptance,” Carden said.