The Alternatives to Water?


When we talk about alternative water supplies, we’re not talking popular soft drinks or juice! An “alternative” water supply is a supply of water that isn’t groundwater.

"...the cost is feasible..."

Doug Manson

"...people don't factor
in the other costs..."

John Heuer

Our water (mostly) comes from a vast underground reservoir known as the Floridan Aquifer. Because taking too much water from the aquifer can harm lakes, rivers, wetlands and other natural features on the surface, we have to carefully protect that source. It forces us to consider alternatives… like river water and seawater desalination.

There are many new, alternative water supply projects that are helping to offset our demand for groundwater. In the Tampa Bay region, alternative sources include desalination, new uses for reclaimed water (recycled wastewater), rivers, and aquifer storage and recovery. Many of these projects are located within Hillsborough County. Because it’s so cheap and readily available, conservation is sometimes viewed as an alternative source. However, it will be discussed on another section of this website.


"Regional solutions have required a lot of give
and take by everyone."

Kathy Castor

Alternative Supplies in the Partnership Agreement:

"...the surface water treatment plant...the
most exciting."

Susan Latvala

Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant

This treatment plant began operation in 2002 and introduced the first non-groundwater supply into the regional drinking water system. This plant treats up to 66 million gallons per day of surface water from the Hillsborough and Alafia Rivers, as well as the Tampa Bypass Canal. The plant experienced some problems and is being fixed and expanded to a capacity of over 70 million gallons a day, so that it can consistently produce its originally intended capacity of 66 million gallons a day.

Seawater Desalination

The Tampa Bay Desalination Plant is the largest desalination plant in North America and is located in Apollo Beach near TECO’s Big Bend power plant. A number of problems have plagued the plant, but repairs are expected to be complete in late 2006. The plant was designed to produce 25 million gallons of water per day, with a total capacity of 28 million gallons per day. SWFWMD agreed to fund $85 million of the cost to build the facility; upon completion the plant will have cost approximately $157 million.

Alafia River Pump Station

Approximately 10 percent of the Alafia River’s flow is pumped every day, provided the daily flow of the river is at least 80 million gallons. A limit is set to minimize the impact on the river.

South-Central Hillsborough Intertie

The South-Central Hillsborough Intertie is a 14-mile pipeline that moves water from the Alafia River pumping station and the C.W. “Bill” Young Reservoir to the Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant.  It also conveys excess water from the Tampa Bypass Canal and Hillsborough River sources to reservoir storage.

North-Central Hillsborough Intertie Project

The North-Central Hillsborough Intertie Project is a 13-mile pipeline that interconnects existing and new water supply sources developed in south Hillsborough to the Tampa bay water’s existing system.. This will allow water to be delivered throughout the region when needed. This pipeline can transport 100 million gallons per day, and is 13 miles in length.

"We all take water for granted it until you turn on the spigot and it does't come."

Ronnie Duncan

"We needed to get
to alternative
sources of water."

Judy Williams

Tampa Bypass Canal Pump Stations and Pipeline

The Tampa Bypass Canal was originally constructed to divert flood waters away from the City of Tampa. Since its inception it has become a water resource for the region, mainly by withdrawing diverted river flows from the Hillsborough River.  However, during the construction of the Tampa Bypass Canal, the aquifer was breached which created a flow of groundwater into the canal that is utilized during periods of low rainfall.

The pipeline is connected to the Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant.

Brandon South Central Connection

Approximately 6.2 miles of pipeline connects the Brandon Urban Dispersed Wells project to the existing South Central Hillsborough Regional Wellfield. The pipeline integrates the wellfield into the regional water supply system.

Additional alternative supply projects (located in Hillsborough County) include:

C.W. "Bill" Young Resevoir Project

State and federal funds helped offset the cost to buy the land for this 15 billion gallon reservoir. During rainy periods, surface water is taken from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River, and the Tampa Bypass Canal and stored in the reservoir for drier times. This facility opened in March 2005 and the reservoir was filled by November 2005.

"...if we don't there's not going to be any water."

Derrill McAteer

Tampa Bay Regional Reclaimed Water & Downstream Augmentation Project

This augmentation project’s goal is to maximize the beneficial use of reclaimed water from the City of Tampa’s Howard F. Curren Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant (upwards of 60 mgd) that is not being used today.

WISE Regional Reclaimed Water Reservoir Project

The WISE project will dramatically increase Hillsborough County’s ability to provide reclaimed water to its customers. The projects will use old unreclaimed phosphate mines to store “wet-weather” reclaimed water from the Valrico and Falkenburg waste water treatment plants. It has the potential to also provide storage for excess reclaimed water flows from Tampa and Plant City. In addition, the WISE project will create wetlands, a new water recharge area, and enhance park and recreational areas for the south Hillsborough County area.

South Hillsborough Regional Reuse Exchange "SHARE" Project

The SHARE project involves looping the reclaimed water transmission system into the South Central area. This system enhancement will allow Water Resource Services to increase its customer base while increasing its system reliability. In addition to new water mains, two 5 million gallon reclaimed water storage tanks will be constructed. When the project is completed, it will allow the county to connect its South/Central reuse system to the City of Tampa’s reclaimed water system.

"...they're drought proof."

Eileen Hart

Hillsborough County Lithia-Pinecrest Reclaimed Water Transmission

This project includes the construction of a reclaimed water transmission main that will connect to Hillsborough County’s South/Central waste water reuse system.  This pipeline will provide the capacity needed to meet existing and future customer demands for reclaimed water in the area.

Tampa Bay Water's Downstream Augmentation Project

The original proposal for Tampa Bay Water’s Downstream Augmentation Project was to exchange surplus reclaimed water for a like amount of water from the Tampa Bypass Canal and Hillsborough River. The canal and river would then be tapped to provide additional potable water for the region. Currently, this project is morphing into a new expansion  of the Enhanced Surface Water System, which has the potential with downstream augmentation to add on an additional 48 million gallons a day from the Tampa Bypass Canal, Alafia River and Hillsborough River, to the regional system.



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