Utility Formalizing Consideration Process for Long-term Master Water Plan Projects

Tampa Bay Water’s staff is working to formalize a process to ensure new water supply projects are considered by Tampa Bay Water’s board within the agency’s Long-term Master Water Plan process and include a commitment or an agreement in principle for water supply sources before entering the feasibility stage. This new process, once formalized, will save time, effort and money on future water projects.

Every five years, Tampa Bay Water updates its Long-term Master Water Plan, looking at a 20-year horizon for water supply and demand. The plan identifies when new supplies need to be built, considering demand forecasts, water shortage mitigation strategies and demand management, and what potential supply projects could be. For each plan, hundreds of project possibilities are whittled down to a short list of projects, which are presented to the board of directors. The board  then selects a project or projects for more detailed feasibility studies. This deep dive into project concepts is lengthy and expensive but vital to ensuring the utility has thoroughly reviewed potential projects for inclusion in the Long-term Master Water Plan.

In the past, member governments or other stakeholders have proposed and requested evaluation of project ideas or concepts and outside the Long-term Master Water Plan framework. At the board’s direction, Tampa Bay Water staff will develop a process by which outside concepts are included in the long-term planning process.

Additionally, for projects where credits, such as those for reclaimed water, must be purchased or obtained in order to build a new water source, the board directed that a formal commitment be secured before a selected project enters the feasibility stage. If feasibility studies have already been conducted and a commitment doesn’t materialize, the hundreds of thousand dollars spent on the studies is wasted.

Since 1996 Tampa Bay Water has considered and/or evaluated more than 100 various reclaimed water projects within and outside the Long-term Master Water Plan process, but none so far have been fully implemented.

This procedural change is especially important in light of new regulatory and legislative requirements regarding reclaimed water and potable reuse, which could mean more reclaimed water projects are suggested to be considered in Tampa Bay Water’s Long-term Master Water Plan.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) will have new rules for all types of potable reuse in 2023, and Florida Senate Bill 64 from the 2021 legislative session requires water reclamation facilities to eliminate all non-beneficial surface water discharges by 2032. As a result, utilities are now required to revisit their strategy to dispose their wastewater effluent, and in many cases are required to implement alternative strategies and to reevaluate water reuse.