Hillsborough Water Works


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"Reclaimed water benefits our customers by giving them a source of irrigation water that currently has no restrictions."

Jim Duncan
Senior Engineering Specialist
Strategic Water Management Group
Hillsborough County
Water Resource Services


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"We've seen 40-60% water savings using the ET Controllers compared to a typical time based schedule that a homeowner
might use."

Michael Dukes, Ph.D., D.E.
Associate Professor and
Irrigation Specialist
Agricultural and Biological
Engineering Department
University of Florida


Advanced technology and education provide a great basis from which to identify good opportunities, develop new technologies and adopt new ways to manage our water as a community and as individuals. All of it begins with a good plan.

Reclaimed Water

reclaimed pipeReducing water consumption is important, but in Hillsborough County, not only can we reduce, but we can reuse the water that we send down the drain. Hillsborough County is able to take water that goes down your drain and reuse it for irrigation purposes. Reclaimed water is treated to just below drinking-water standards; while it is not safe for consumption, it is great for vegetation. Using reclaimed water is an excellent way to irrigate lawns, gardens and golf courses.  Customers benefit from reclaimed water in two ways: first, it is cheaper than potable water and second, it is a source that currently has no restrictions.  Hillsborough County benefits through enhanced conservation because when people use reclaimed water to irrigate their lawns they avoid using more valuable, potable water.

With more than 16,000 customers and agreements in place to serve another 5,000, for a total of 21,000 accounts, Hillsborough County has the largest retail reclaimed water program in the state and the 8th largest in America. In 2009, the County produced about 34 million gallons per day, 22 million gallons of which is distributed to customers, while the rest is discharged into surface waters. The long-term goal is to achieve 100% utilization of reclaimed water. This will require infrastructure improvements that take time and money but pay off in potable water savings in the long run.

The reclaimed water is delivered to homes and businesses through purple pipes in an underground system that serves participating neighborhoods.   The ability to provide reclaimed water is limited by cost and location. More information and details about the system can be found here: http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/water/reclaimedwater/

Research Projects – ET Controllers  

irrigationThe University of Florida and the Gulf Coast Resource and Education Center (GCREC) are teaming up with Hillsborough County Water Resource Services to determine the best irrigation policies for plants and people.

Using a weather-detection device called an ET controller, researchers at GCREC are finding out how much water that plants really need. ET controllers measure evapotranspiration, or the water that is evaporated off the plant and into the atmosphere. In controlled circumstances, they effectively reduced the amount of water applied to the plants in irrigation. The device can determine exactly how much water the plant needs to stay healthy without overwatering, which can waste precious water resources. 

Based on research, GCREC found that plants can survive with far less water than we originally thought was necessary. In fact, researchers found that they could save up to 40 percent of that water “normally” applied.

What’s it mean for Hillsborough residents?

The ET Controllers are currently being tested in Hillsborough County homes. When installed, we can maintain beautiful landscapes without wasting water. Stacia Davis is a graduate student working on the project with Michael Dukes, Ph.D. of the University of Florida. They are both optimistic about the research results.

“It is important to find ways to save water without sacrifice to landscapes.  It is possible that ET controllers can do just that,” says Davis.

Planning has allowed Hillsborough County to change the present to benefit the future. It has inspired people to get involved and programs to take flight. Most importantly, it has ensured a water-efficient and abundant future for generations to come.