Desal plant, reservoir easing effects of Tampa Bay’s drought
Florida's drought has become so dire that the Southwest Florida Water Management District is about to alert homeowners to watch for watering restrictions.
The board, also known as Swiftmud, is expected next week to declare a phase one water order. That means it will alert the residents of the 16 counties it oversees that they should get ready to scale back their water use.
In the Tampa Bay area, a drought such as this one used to mean pumping more water from the aquifer to replace the lack of rain. The result would be dried up lakes and wetlands, sometimes causing permanent damage.
No more, though. Now that Tampa Bay Water has built a desalination plant and a 15 billion gallon reservoir, the region can handle a drought without damaging the environment, according to chief technical officer Alison Adams.
Having those facilities "does impact how we can manage our way through a drought now," Adams said. "We can continue meeting the demand for water and not have the kind of environmental damage we had."
Those controversial and, at times, trouble-prone facilities give the Tampa Bay region an advantage over most of Florida in responding to the prolonged drought and resulting wildfires. Only the Peace River Water Supply Authority, which supplies water to Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties, is similarly equipped for a drought.