Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination plant to start providing drinking water

March 13, 2003
The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination plant will officially start delivering drinking water on Monday afternoon, March 17.

March 13, 2003 -- The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination plant will officially start delivering drinking water on Monday afternoon, March 17. Tampa Bay water will hold a special ceremony commemorating the event.

The 30,000-square-foot reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant uses seawater from Tampa Bay to provide an environmentally friendly, drought-proof, sustainable supply of drinking water.

Although it will initially produce water at a rate of 4.9 million gallons a day (mgd), its output will be 25 mgd when at full capacity, making it the largest RO seawater desalination facility in North America.

The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination plant will provide the Tampa Bay region with 10 percent of its drinking water.

Numerous independent environmental studies predict the facility will not increase Tampa Bay's salinity beyond its normal seasonal variations or have any impact on the bay's marine life.

The plant has two built-in protection systems that monitor the salinity of the source water, desalinated water and seawater discharged back into the bay. An early warning system alarm will sound if the blending ratio of the seawater being returned to Tampa Bay falls below the optimal blending ratio of 70:1.

The plant's second alarm system will instruct plant operators to check, adjust and, if needed, shut down affected areas of the plant if the salinity of the discharge reaches the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's permit level.

Tampa Bay Water will also conduct ongoing permit-required and supplemental monitoring of the ecology of Hillsborough Bay and Tampa Bay near Apollo Beach to determine if initial predictions on desalination plant environmental effects were accurate and adjust plant operations as necessary. Covanta will also perform ongoing, additional facility intake and discharge monitoring.

Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination is producing the world's least expensive desalinated water. Its average wholesale cost over the next 30 years is projected at just $2.49 per thousand gallons. Co-funding by the Southwest Florida Water Management District through its Partnership Agreement with Tampa Bay Water of up to $85 million for the plant's capital costs has further lowered the 30-year projected average cost to $1.88 per thousand gallons.

Tampa Bay Water owns Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination. In an innovative public/private partnership, Covanta built and operates the facility. Originally designed and owned by Poseidon Resources, in May 2002, Tampa Bay Water exercised its option to purchase the plant but retained Covanta and Poseidon.

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