Once the sole source of drinking water for the Tampa Bay region, groundwater is still an important part of Tampa Bay Water’s system. Groundwater comes from the Floridan Aquifer, an underground layer of limestone that stores billions of gallons of water that seeps down through the soil.
Tampa Bay Water is permitted to withdraw an annual average of 120 million gallons per day (mgd) from 13 wellfields in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Seven treatment facilities disinfect the groundwater before it is sent to local governments or blended with other supplies.As with any water supply, Tampa Bay Water carefully monitors the environment in and around regional wellfields. Groundwater production is managed and shifted in response to climatic and environmental factors.
Some of the wellfields in Tampa Bay Water’s system have been producing groundwater for more than 50 years. In the past, very high rates of pumping from these wellfields contributed to lower water levels in some of the region’s lakes and wetlands.In 1998, Tampa Bay Water gained ownership and control of all of the regional wellfields in the Tampa Bay area. The Southwest Florida Water Management District issued a new permit to Tampa Bay Water that consolidated the permits for 11 of these wellfields located in Pasco, northern Hillsborough, and northeast Pinellas counties. This new permit, known as the “Consolidated Permit,” lowered the annual average pumping limit for these 11 wellfields from 192 mgd to 90 mgd. Tampa Bay Water operates these wellfields as an interconnected system at this lower pumping limit to promote environmental recovery near the wellfields.Reduced pumping from these 11 wellfields has resulted in higher groundwater levels and environmental recovery in lakes and wetlands. Tampa Bay Water’s Consolidated Permit allows this sustained level of pumpage through 2020. We will continue to monitor the environment near these wellfields and measure the amount of recovery achieved by the pumping reduction.Tampa Bay Water operates two additional wellfields in central and southern Hillsborough County. These wellfields are located far from the Consolidated Permit wellfields. Since no lake or wetland impacts from pumping have been recorded at these wellfields, there was no need to reduce their pumping limits and include them in the Consolidated Permit.