Tampa Bay Water provides drinking water for nearly two and a half million residents on the gulf coast of Florida. Historically, the utility relied largely on groundwater to satisfy the nearly 250 million gallons of water required per day. The utility’s operators recognized the increasing vulnerability of its groundwater source to saltwater intrusion and completed construction of a desalination plant in 2008. The utility now delivers ‘blended’ water using groundwater, surface water, and desalinated water. However, Tampa Bay Water faces numerous risks from climate change including more frequent and intense storms as well as flooding and the aforementioned threat of saltwater intrusion. Therefore, the utility operators decided to more systematically estimate its source water vulnerability to projected changes in precipitation levels and saltwater intrusion and assess its ability to meet an anticipated increase in demand of water to 275 million gallons a day by 2035.
The analysis confirmed Tampa Bay Water’s previous good judgment of diversifying its water sources and indicated that its upgraded system likely enables the utility to meet its anticipated future needs even in a changing climate. Tampa Bay Water continues to anticipate, plan and prepare for the challenges of a changing climate through working with the Water Utility Climate Alliance, a collaboration among ten of the country’s water utilities that provide leadership on climate issues, and the Florida Water Climate Alliance, a collaboration among state universities, water utilities and water management agencies focusing on climate change.