Recently, water has been at the forefront of conversation in this region, and you may have heard news reports or seen election-related information about wellfields and the safety and sustainability of your drinking water in Pinellas County.
As the board chairman of Tampa Bay Water and a Pinellas County commissioner, I want to assure the public that the drinking water in this region is safe and high-quality. And it’s not for sale.
Tampa Bay Water was created in 1998 to assure adequate, reliable water supplies for the governments it serves: Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Through these governments, Tampa Bay Water supplies water to more than 2.3 million people in the region. The agency was created to end the region’s water wars and provide a reliable and environmentally sustainable drinking water supply for the region. And we’ve been doing that successfully for over a decade.
Tampa Bay Water doesn’t “make” the water. Mother Nature does that important job through three main supply sources — groundwater, surface water and desalinated water.
Tampa Bay Water has reduced groundwater pumping by more than 50 percent over the past decade, but groundwater remains an important part of the regional water supply. It is pumped from wells in the Floridan Aquifer, an underground layer of limestone that stores billions of gallons of water that seeps down through the soil.
Cross Bar Ranch, the subject of recent news coverage, is one of 13 major wellfields that serve our region. Decades ago, Pinellas County bought the property in Pasco County. When Tampa Bay Water was formed, ownership of the 17 water wells on the property was transferred to the regional water supplier.
What is important to know is this: Whether the ownership of Cross Bar Ranch changes hands, the water supply is safe and secure.
A legal covenant “perpetually protects” Tampa Bay Water’s use of its part of the property to provide drinking water and restricts what the owner can do with the ranch. The uses must be compatible with public drinking water wells.
In short, the water that comes from Cross Bar Ranch will remain under the ownership of Tampa Bay Water.
This region has invested more than $1 billion to ensure a long-term, safe and sustainable drinking water supply. Tampa Bay Water’s mission is to reliably provide clean, safe water to the Tampa Bay region now and for future generations. And we’re going to continue to meet that mission every day.
Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala is chairman of the Tampa Bay Water Board of Directors.