TAMPA — The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to allow city officials to start negotiating a partnership between Tampa, Hillsborough County, Tampa Electric Co. and Mosaic Fertilizer to ship reclaimed water to Polk County.
Every day, Tampa dumps more than 50-million gallons of treated wastewater into Tampa Bay, and for years has been working on a way to put that water to use.
The proposal would transport treated city and county wastewater to reservoirs owned by Mosaic, where it would be stored and sold to customers, including Tampa Electric, which needs the water for new power facilities in Polk County.
Its early phase, to be completed by 2015, would deliver 12-million gallons of reclaimed water each day to Tampa Electric for its Polk County operations.
Hillsborough County would supply 6-million gallons a day not being used by its current customers in the south part of the county. The city of Tampa would supply the other 6-million gallons, and another 20-million gallons of Tampa's water would be used to recharge the aquifer.
Council member Mary Mulhern, who asked City Council members to delay their vote last week so she could get more information, still had questions Thursday.
She wants to make sure Tampa will have enough reclaimed water left over for its own projects. Some call for expanding South Tampa's current reclaimed water system and taking it to large water users, such as Tampa International Airport and a proposed ethanol plant at the Port of Tampa. City officials also want to use reclaimed water for irrigation on Bayshore Boulevard and in a downtown park.
All those city plans, at full implementation, would consume up to 12-million gallons daily, approximately 24 percent of the reclaimed water the city has available each day. The people who want to buy Tampa's water for the Mosaic project are interested in most of the remaining water.
But Steve Daignault, the city administrator of public works, says the numbers being thrown around are just conceptual. "We're not committing any water or any dollars at this time," he said.
Mulhern said she also wants the city staff to look into the environmental impacts of the mechanics of moving the water and what it will eventually be used for by Tampa Electric.
City staffers will brief council members every other month throughout negotiations, which will include how much to charge for the water.
"This reclaimed water is a public asset that is only going to become more valuable as water becomes more scarce," Mulhern said.
Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.