Tampa Bay Water gets 90 million gallon/day permit

01/25/11 Kate Bradshaw
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The board that oversees water usage in the Tampa Bay area has granted Tampa Bay Water permission to withdraw 90 million gallons of water per day for another ten years. This means the area’s biggest supplier of water can continue withdrawing the vital resource from area lakes, streams, and the rich aquifer that underlies much of the Sunshine state. Today water manager Alba Mas told the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board the agreement comes with several conditions.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, known informally as SWFWMD, first approved Tampa Bay Water’s consolidated water use permit in 1998. Starting in the 1970s, rapid development – and the ensuing demand on the local water supply – sparked water wars among Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties, as well as the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Odessa resident Eileen Hart lives in the vicinity of the disputed well fields. She said she’s happy that the permit’s getting approved, but she doesn’t think enough has been done to replenish water levels in area lakes.

She added she’s concerned about what will happen after 2012, when Tampa Bay Water’s CW Bill Young Reservoir is slated to be out of commission for two years to repair major cracks.

Tampa Bay Water’s Warren Hogg said the utility doesn’t have specifics on which lakes have recovered, but the overall situation looks better than it did at the height of the water wars.

The permit is technically the biggest one SWFWMD has issued. Richard Owen, who is Deputy Executive Director with SWFWMD’s Division of Resource Regulation, said phosphate companies constitute the second biggest water use allotment.

Today the SWFWMD governing board also heard reports on the state of Tampa Bay’s water supply. The area has long been subject to droughts, a trend hydrologic data manager Granville Kinsman said hasn’t completely gone away.

SWFWMD demand management coordinator Lois Sorenson said conditions may be drier than what’s ideal, but still not enough to warrant any beefed up water restrictions throughout the area.

Despite the ongoing drought, the heavy rains forecast through tomorrow may mean record rainfall for January. Currently, Tampa’s record for rainfall for January is eight inches, which was set in 1948. The next meeting of the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board takes place February 10 at the District’s Tampa office.

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