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Relief may come for parched suburbs

But not soon. Officials are talking about bringing reclaimed water lines to New Tampa, but estimates put it around 2007 or 2008.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001


WEST MEADOWS -- New Tampa could be next in line to use reclaimed water to keep thirsty lawns lush during times of drought.

City Council member Charlie Miranda told the New Tampa Community Council that over the next several years the city hopes to install reclaimed water lines to homes and businesses in New Tampa.

"We know there's an immense desire to have reclaimed water," he said Thursday night. "Why? Because people realize it's the right thing to do."

The project would enhance the city's efforts to recoup the estimated 45-million gallons of used water that are flushed into Tampa Bay daily. It also would reduce the city's demand for drinking water, especially during a prolonged drought.

"It's something that's stable," said Miranda, one of three council members who may run for mayor in 2003. "It's something that's plentiful."

The project would complement ones already planned for South Tampa. Last year, residents there agreed to support a $23.5-million project to use recycled sewer water for irrigation.

Once built, customers with the access to the lines will pay $1.34 for every 748 gallons of reclaimed water used. That's about 30 cents cheaper than the same amount of drinking water.

The project targets dense residential areas of the city that use a lot of water. The first two phases will serve people in the Interbay Peninsula, including Davis Islands, Hyde Park, Culbreath Isles, Palma Ceia and the Westshore business district.

Construction on the first part will start sometime next year. Completion is set for late 2003.

Building the infrastructure to tap into the recycled water will cost about $85-million for the three areas, Miranda said. User fees and federal grants will pay for it.

The city has earmarked $12.3-million in federal funds for the first phase, but it plans to seek millions more for the other phases once the project is up and running. No timetable is set for New Tampa, although estimates put it around 2007 or 2008.

The New Tampa line would run from Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Tampa north to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Members of the community council suggested that the construction coincide with the not-yet-scheduled widening of Bruce B. Downs.

Residents also asked that the city require developers to install residential lines now so they will be in place when the reclaimed water becomes available.

Miranda said that while such a requirement could speed up the process, it probably won't pass legal muster. The city can't mandate the additional expense unless the project is definitely happening, he said.

The majority of community council members supported using reclaimed water, but questioned why officials are not limiting growth to help solve the water crisis.

"As development occurs they are going to draw more and more water," said Jim Davison of Hunter's Green, who also asked about the idea of converting reclaimed water to drinking water.

Miranda said studies have shown that even if no development had occurred over the last 10 years, the region would still face a water shortage.

"If we had rain, I wouldn't be here discussing this," he said. "The question would never come up about water vs. development."

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463.

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