You may have noticed those large blue pipes as you have driven around Keystone. They belong to Tampa Bay Water, a public water utility to Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties along with the cities of St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey. As most of Keystone is on residential wells, why do we see pipes from a public water utility? The story begins in 1929 as the City of St. Petersburg was losing its local water source to saltwater intrusion. Their search for a new source led them out of Pinellas into Hillsborough County. An area rich in water was found and purchased in Keystone, at Lake Rogers, and the Cosme-Odessa Wellfeld was developed in 1930. As time went on, cooperative agreements were made with counties and cities and 10 more wellfields were established throughout Pasco and Hillsborough.
Fast forward to the 1990’s. A combination of drought, landscape alterations and elevated wellfield withdrawals attributed to environment damage resulting in lowered aquifer levels, dry wells, sink holes and reduced lake levels. A lengthy and expensive court fight began between the Southwest Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority (WCRWSA) as the water utility was known at that time. A number of impacted Keystone residents may recall our input and participation in the “Water Wars”. Eventually in 1998 the state passed legislation calling for cooperation between the two entities. TBW was born and SWFWMD was placed in charge of water withdrawal permits based on the condition of the Floridan Aquifer. Additional conditions required TBW to put in place mitigation goals for restoration of wetlands and lake damaged by elevated withdrawals. Prior to this legislation, each individual wellfield had been issued its’ own permit. A new Consolidated Permit was required that grouped all 11 wellfields into one permit based on an annual withdrawal. Under prior permitting a cumulative total for the 11 wellfieds had reached 167.2 million gallons per day (mgd). Under the new Consolidated Permit the cumulative annual total for the 11 wellfields was 90 mgd.
The Consolidated Permit is renewed every 10 years and is due to be renewed this year. TBW has maintained the Consolidated Permit at that level and is requesting SWFWMD renew at that 90 mgd level again for the next 10 years. In the face of Florida’s increasing population how has TBW been able to reduce environmental impacts and maintain that reduced level? Reducing environmental impacts has been assisted by retiring older shallow wells and replacement with newer deeper casings/wells with less impact on surface lakes and wetlands. Alternative water sources are the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir (15.5 billion gallon reservoir), the Tampa Bay Saltwater Desalination plant (up to 25mgd), and surface water plant (up to 120 mgd). Future projects may include:
- Expanding the regional surface water treatment plant to treat additional water from the Tampa Bypass Canal, Alafia River and C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir,
- Expanding the existing desalination plant to treat additional seawater,
- New groundwater via aquifer recharge credits (this project would include a new groundwater wellfield in southern Hillsborough County by purchasing aquifer recharge credits from Hillsborough County via its South Hillsborough Aquifer Recharge Project)
Even though most Keystone residents are not on public utility water, we along with public utility customers have an obligation to play a responsible role in consumer awareness by watching carefully our usage, conforming to our watering day and using water efficient and conserving appliances.
Did you know July is Lakes Appreciation Month?