CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay Water’s Board of Directors recently approved the agency’s fiscal year 2020 budget with no uniform rate increase. The 2020 budget maintains a wholesale drinking water rate of $2.56 per 1,000 gallons for the ninth consecutive year.

Tampa Bay Water is projecting next year’s demand to be 180.8 million gallons per day annual average, about a 2 mgd increase over 2018. To meet this projected delivery, Tampa Bay Water is planning on the following source allocation:

• 82.8 mgd of groundwater from the consolidated wellfields

• 27.0 mgd of groundwater from other wellfields

• 62.0 mgd of surface water

• 9 mgd of desalinated seawater

The agency’s total budget is approximately $184 million, which is funded through the sale of water to our member governments. The fiscal year 2020 budget includes approximately $19.7 million to fund capital improvement projects that are on-going or will start in fiscal year 2020. Capital Improvement Program funding is forecasted through fiscal year 2029.

June 2019 marked Tampa Bay Water’s 21st anniversary. Formerly the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority, Tampa Bay Water was created as a regional utility in June 1998 to eliminate competition for water and economic disparity among the governments it serves.

Economic disparity among the members was a contributing factor to the region’s “water wars.” Some members had their own long-producing wellfields which provided inexpensive water. Others had no facilities and had to subscribe for water from newer, more expensive Authority-owned facilities. Others had a combination of owned facilities and subscriptions.

With varying rates for water, and subscriptions for water, it was impossible to develop new regional supplies to offset anticipated wellfield cutbacks, support environmental stewardship and supply growing demand.

A regional utility with a uniform rate changed all that. Now, everyone pays the same price for water from the regional utility, regardless of source. To accomplish this, the members sold their regionally significant facilities to the new utility, which began charging a uniform rate in 1998.

That single rate for quality water includes all the costs necessary to run the utility and its facilities, debt acquired to purchase member facilities and to build new, alternative water supplies; renewal and replacement funds; a rate stabilization fund; and plans and initiatives to ensure adequate supply in the future.

The change to a uniform water rate remains a cornerstone of the utility’s governance restructuring, demonstrating the shift from parochialism to regionalism that made Tampa Bay Water possible. All members agreed to share in the cost of a regional water utility because when the region prospers, everyone benefits.

Tampa Bay Water member governments include New Port Richey, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Visit tampbaywater.org for more information.