Innovative Partnership Will Produce Water, Protect Resources

Tampa Bay Regional Reclaimed Water and Downstream Augmentation Project

Satellite image of transmission lines in tri-county area.

The Tampa Bay area already leads the nation in the reuse of reclaimed water. An innovative new project will make a good system even better, making use of both dry-season and wet-season supplies.

The Tampa Bay Regional Reclaimed Water and Downstream Augmentation Project is an ambitious reclaimed water project that will save millions of gallons of potable water per day, make additional water supplies available and help restore natural system areas impacted by low water levels.

The project will save 26 million gallons per day (mgd) of potable water by utilizing approximately 55 mgd of reclaimed water produced by the city of Tampa’s Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant.

During the dry season, the reclaimed water will be used to meet the irrigation needs of residents and businesses, adding 30,000 reclaimed water customers in the city of Tampa and Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The use of reclaimed water by these new customers will save about 9 mgd of freshwater sources. The reclaimed water will also be used to ensure a minimum flow in the Hillsborough River.

During the wetter months, when irrigation needs are reduced, reclaimed water will be used for two primary purposes:
• To enhance natural systems and aquifer recharge in the upper Hillsborough River watershed
• To augment stream flows

The enhancement component will provide an opportunity to restore impacted wetlands, recharge the aquifer, and increase the base flow of the Hillsborough River.

The project’s augmentation component will provide additional river flow downstream of water withdrawal points, protecting the resource while allowing more water upstream to be withdrawn and treated or stored in a reservoir for potable uses.

The project is estimated to cost approximately $213 million.

The core of the project includes five key components:
• Addition of conventional reclaimed water irrigation customers by the city of Tampa and Hillsborough and Pasco counties
• Stream augmentation by Tampa Bay Water, allowing freshwater withdrawals upstream as a potable water source
• Maintain minimum flow to the Hillsborough River
• Enhance natural systems and aquifer recharge in southeastern Pasco County
• Enhance natural systems and aquifer recharge in southern Hillsborough

The proposed Northern Transmission System, which includes reclaimed water transmission pipelines and pumping and storage facilities at the Curren Plant, is the key component for all the regional projects being considered. In addition to the core components of the project, additional wet-season uses for surplus reclaimed water are being considered. The large-scale storage of reclaimed water in southern Hillsborough County during the wet season would allow for later withdrawal and reuse by reclaimed water customers. Another potential use of surplus flows is to further expand the use of reclaimed water to enhance natural system and aquifer recharge in the upper Hillsborough River watershed.

The tri-county area (Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas) is a rapidly growing region of more than 2.5 million people that is faced with significant water resource concerns. The water resources in the Hillsborough, Alafia and Palm River watersheds have been stressed. The watershed of the Hillsborough River, the source of much of the potable water supply for the region, has experienced decreased groundwater and surface water levels over the past few decades. Land-use changes with associated drainage and storage alterations, a regional flood project and extensive ground- and surface-water withdrawals have contributed to increased stresses to the water resources.

Reclaimed water is an alternative source of water that has great potential to help meet future demands in the region, while ensuring the sustainability of environmental resources.

Irrigation demands are seasonal. Peak demand typically occurs during the drier months of April and May. Wet season irrigation demands are relatively low, which results in excess reclaimed water being available during those wet months.

When irrigation needs are low, reclaimed water can potentially be used to augment water resources. For instance, reclaimed water can be used for downstream augmentation in the wet months of the year, allowing upstream fresh water to be withdrawn for storage in the existing off-stream regional reservoir or for treatment now and providing additional potable water to the region.

The augmentation component of the proposal also allows additional fresh water to be developed in an environmentally sensitive way, protecting overall flows to Tampa Bay. For every gallon of reclaimed water augmented downstream, one gallon of surface water upstream is available for drinking water purposes. Downstream augmentation will also use the reclaimed water resource during the wetter months when the demand from irrigation customers is low, thus maximizing the use of the reclaimed water resource.

The Tampa Bay Regional Reclaimed Water and Down-stream Augmentation Project is proposed as a regional partnership of five agencies working cooperatively to maximize the use of reclaimed water resources in the Hillsborough, Alafia, and Palm River watersheds. The project is proposed to help meet future water demands and to enhance natural systems in the tri-county area.

The partnership consists of:
• City of Tampa
• Hillsborough County
• Pasco County
• Southwest Florida Water Management District
• Tampa Bay Water

The timeline for completion of the core project is approximately 10 years.