Tampa Bay Desalination Plant Achieves Performance Milestones

April 2010 Vol. 65 No. 4

Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Facility, the largest seawater desalination plant in the U.S., has passed its final two performance milestone tests. The tests required the plant to produce 25 million gallons of water per day (MGD) for 120 consecutive days and also average 20 MGD for 12 consecutive months.

Both milestones were successfully completed in February.

“The completion of the last of a series of operational milestones at the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination facility is an achievement for all of the region’s water customers,” said Gerald Seeber, general manager of Tampa Bay Water. “The facility provides an important, drought-proof component to the region’s water supply system and is a true example of a successful public-private partnership.”

At 25 MGD, the plant provides about 10 percent of the Tampa Bay region’s drinking water supply, and is operated by American Water and Acciona Agua through the joint venture American Water – Acciona Agua LLC. The desalination plant serves as a model that other coastal communities may consider as a practical and sustainable solution to ease their water challenges.

“This plant meets the growing water needs of the Tampa Bay area and has produced more than 18 billion gallons of water for 2.5 million customers in the last two years,” said Luis Castilla, president for ACCIONA Agua SA.

As a result of passing the test, Tampa Bay Water will receive $31.25 million dollars from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as SWFWMD. SWFWMD had pledged funds to help build the plant, but had required the plant to achieve four performance benchmarks prior to releasing all the funds.

Seawater desalination is a sustainable, drought-proof, environmentally sound source of drinking water. Groundwater from aquifers and surface water from rivers is already part of Tampa Bay Water's regional system, but seawater desalination was selected to add another element of diversity and drought-resistance to the region's water supply network.

Tampa Bay Water provides wholesale water to the public utility systems of Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, as well as the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa, who in turn serve 2.5 million people in the Tampa Bay region.