How much is enough?

Tampa Bay Water determined the “ideal” amount of water to produce from the water sources through the use of a computer-model called SMARTT. Even though Tampa Bay Water demonstrated the ability to reduce groundwater production far below the Partnership Agreement goal of 90 million gallons a day (mgd), in 2005, this model concluded that the groundwater pumping should be increased from 90 million gallons a day to 105 million gallons a day, justifying lesser amounts of production from the new alternative surface water system.

This action hindered recovery of hydrologic systems around the regional wellfields. A year later Tampa Bay Water has increased its withdrawals from the regional wellfields to around 114  mgd, which is 24 mgd above the goal set by the Partnership Agreement. Until the groundwater production can be reduced to 90 mgd or less environmental recovery will continue to be delayed. This policy decision is about who we are as a community and what we value.

"...even more challenging moving forward."

Kathy Castor

By pumping more groundwater, the initial cost of water will be reduced for customers — but the long-term cost to the environment in impacts to wildlife and the people who live near our water sources could be significant.

While groundwater is the least expensive to produce, it also has the greatest consequences. This idea is reflected in a report from Tampa Bay Water. According Tampa Bay Water’s Optimized Regional Operations Plan Annual Report for Water Year 2004 (July 2005), the recommendation to Tampa Bay Water was to withdraw “surface water at the maximum rate allowable and possible whenever surface water is available, even though there may be capacity to utilize groundwater resources. This will maximize the available groundwater in storage and reduce the risk of permit violation when surface water supplies may not be available. Essentially the groundwater resources supplement the surface water resources to meet demand, when surface water is available.” It’s also important to remember that we’ve paid millions of dollars to help restore the environment. Increasing the withdrawals diminish our investment.

Dry Wetland
Dry Wetland

Good to the last drop: Groundwater is cheaper. But, the price to repair damage to wetlands and the economic losses to business far exceed the cost of using alternative sources. The cost of producing new water must be part of the policy debate. But to reach a real decision, the real costs of environmental impact and the impacts to the quality of life must also be part of the equation.

Lake McKethan

"People should care about the quality of life."

Ronda Storms

How much would you pay to protect the environment? What is the cost of failing to protect the environment? The economy and the environment in Florida are directly connected. We have to balance the cost of developing new water supplies with protecting the environment. It’s a complicated choice with political and economic consequences for today and for the future. By choosing the least expensive option and failing to fully implement alternative supplies, we risk costly environmental damage and economic instability.

"The environment will be continuously damaged..."

Derrill McAteer

The question is not whether there is enough water, but where it will come from? Desalination is by no means a magic bullet to solve all our water problems. But, the combination of conservation efforts by residents, use of reclaimed water, and the use of alternative supplies like desalination can greatly reduce our need to rely on groundwater. It will cost more, possibly over a dollar per month. Are you willing to pay?


Throughout this website, you’ll have the opportunity to play small videos of people who were involved in shaping Tampa Bay’s water policy. They include activists, elected officials, lawyers and experts. All of them were involved in what is called, “Tampa Bay’s Water Wars.” We thought you’d like to hear what they have to say in their own words. We think you’ll appreciate their very different perspectives.

Meet the Experts