Regional focus: Tampa Bay water follies

Evernote TampaJorge Aguilar of Alternet has written an article about Tampa Bay’s apparently doomed attempts to use ocean desalination as a panacea for its current and future water deficits. (Go to my public Evernote folder on Tampa Bay water that has links to several Florida news articles about Tampa Bay’s travails. Clicking on a story will get you an unformatted hodgepodge with the actual story buried at the bottom. Click “go to source” directly under the headline to see the original page.

To get a sense of the technological challenges presented by ocean desal, see the narrated slide show A Tour of Tampa Bay’s Desalination Plant, written and narrated by Cynthia Barnett, a journalist who specializes in Florida water issues. )

From Aguilar’s article:

In its first major decision, Tampa Bay Water decided in 1999 to allow several private firms to build, own and operate a 25-million-gallon-per-day [desalination] plant that would supply up to 15% of the area’s water needs. So far, it has been a disastrous venture. The plant went online in 2008 – six years later than scheduled and $40 million over budget.  It has rarely run at full capacity to this day. In fact, Tampa Bay took ownership of the plant after two of the firms in charge of completing the plant went bankrupt.  In March of 2009, the desalination plant, now operated by a subsidiary of the German multinational RWE, had to be shut down again after yet another malfunction.

But that isn’t all.

Tampa Bay area residents, in the midst of a major five-year drought, recently found out that Tampa Bay Water’s other major project, the four year old C.W. Bill Young Reservoir – designed specifically to safeguard for droughts – has major cracks that may take two years to fix and cost over $125 million to repair.

The $125-million projected cost is almost as much as the reservoir cost to build, and there is no reason to think that it won’t be more.

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