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Good news! Demand for water drops

Tampa Bay Water says the city is returning to self-reliant status and demand on its well fields was down for April.

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


Tampa Bay Water says the city is returning to self-reliant status and demand on its well fields was down for April.

CLEARWATER -- Despite warmer weather, conservation and public policy have combined to create some good news on the region's water front.

Tampa Bay Water officials said Monday that demand on its 11 regional well fields in April was 245-million gallons a day, down 6 percent from the same month a year earlier.

As temperatures climbed in May, demand rose to 251-million gallons a day, but that was down 10 percent from May of last year.

Typically, May demand runs at about 265-million gallons a day.

The figures were a welcome respite from the drought-driven gloom and doom water managers have been hearing for more than two years.

"The long-range forecast says we should expect normal rains starting in June," Warren Hogg, permitting manager for the water utility, told its board Monday. "Normal rainfall won't make up much of our deficit; but at this point, a normal rainy season would be a welcome break."

The report also was good news for Tampa.

The city had been relying on Tampa Bay Water to supply up to 40-million gallons of drinking water a day since the Hillsborough River, the city's principal source of water, slowed to a trickle.

But Tampa has asked the water utility for next to nothing for the last six weeks, which has allowed dramatic reductions in pumping at the four well fields that are in a position to supply Tampa directly.

As an example of the impact of Tampa's return to self-reliant status, pumping from the Cross-Bar Well Field in Pasco County -- which stood at 33.5-million gallons a day in February -- dropped to 18.7 million a day in March and 13.5- million a day in April.

"For the last six weeks, Tampa has been meeting its own needs almost entirely," said Jerry Maxwell, general manager of Tampa Bay Water.

There are several reasons, according to Tampa water director Dave Tippin.

"The flow in the Hillsborough River is lower than it was last year, and we thought we were in bad shape back then," Tippin said. "But we learned some things by living through last year. We started the dry season with our reservoir full, for one. We learned how to use some smaller sources of water, like Sulphur Springs, to better advantage. We started the aquifer-storage-and-recovery program.

"And those rains in March really helped. We got 4 inches. That carried us through a lot of April."

Tippin was referring to a surprise deluge that hit the region during a two-day period late in March.

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