Tampa Bay Water gives water update

08/18/08 Seán Kinane
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This morning the agency that supplies drinking water to the nearly three million residents of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties met in Clearwater. The Board of Tampa Bay Water considered new sources for the region’s long-term water supply, the status of the current drought and damage to the region’s largest reservoir.

In June 2005, a 15-billion gallon drinking-water reservoir opened in Hillsborough County. But major cracks in the wall were discovered before the end of 2006. Tampa Bay Water’s John Kennedy said the cause of the cracks may not be known for years. The reservoir is being inspected visually and monitored with instruments, Kennedy said.

Two areas of the reservoir, a total length of about 1,900 feet, have large cracks greater than 1-inch wide. Kennedy said some of the large cracks had been filled with a “neat grout” but some of those reopened in May. Because of the cracks, the reservoir is only half full.

“There is some good news in all of this. Number one, the reservoir is safe. Number two, the facility, although reduced in storage capacity, can be used in an interim mode.”

Tampa Bay Water’s General Counsel Richard Lotspeich would not go into detail about possible legal action that could be taken if the company that constructed the reservoir is found to be at fault. Lotspeich did say that the clock would not run out on any legal opportunities.

In addition to the reservoir cracks, the Tampa Bay Water Board heard a report about the region’s water supply and drought status. So far this year, rainfall is above normal but the region is still trying to climb out of a rainfall deficit. This has led to reduced flow in streams, according to Alison Adams, senior manager for Source Rotation and Environmental Protection.

“With our current water supply situation, we would recommend that the member governments continue with demand management actions, continue with one day per week irrigation restrictions, continue with our public conservation messaging and continue enforcement of those restrictions.”

Tropical Storm Fay, which may develop into a hurricane by Tuesday morning, could help increase water levels in Tampa Bay aquifers, Adams said.

Adams said that area residents have used 10 million gallons of water per day less this year than in the last two years. She attributed it to more rainfall and the poor economy.

Tampa Bay Water also heard an update on a long-term master water plan it needs to approve before the end of the year. Paula Dye is a chief environmental planner with Tampa Bay Water. “Our current planning analysis shows that you’ll need about 40 million gallons per day by 2030.”

To fill those needs, Tampa Bay Water will consider 17 projects exploiting five types of source water. If all of these projects were to be completed, they could add as much as 100 million gallons per day, according to Steve Simpson. The five source types are river water, aquifer recharge, groundwater, seawater desalination and brackish groundwater.

Tampa Bay Water also approved two operations and facilities expansion projects. They were both to Encore Construction for a total of more than $32 million for a new pump station at the Tampa Bypass Canal and for repump and high service pump stations at the Regional Facilities Site.

During Monday’s meeting, the Board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Tampa to plan how reclaimed water might enhance the region’s drinking water supply, Paula Dye said.

The next Tampa Bay Water Board meeting will be Oct. 20.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Tampa Bay Water

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