Cooperation got us ready for drought

Published April 21 2017
Updated April 24 2017

Getting to this point was an ugly, expensive slog. But in the face of a statewide drought, the Tampa Bay region stands well-positioned to cope with the dry conditions without harming the environment. That's thanks to the existence of a regional water authority, a 15-billion-gallon reservoir and a massive desalination plant that reduces the need to pump extra groundwater when the rains aren't falling.

Thirty years ago, Tampa Bay was at war with itself over water, with counties battling over who was drawing too much from the aquifer and damaging lakes and rivers. That eventually led to the creation of Tampa Bay Water, a regional utility uniting the interests of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The agency led the charge to construct a desal plant and reservoir for droughts just like the current one. Both projects became mired in multimillion-dollar cost overruns, breakdowns and mismanagement. But it has ultimately reflected the wisdom of regional co-operation. Both facilities are now running and serving their purpose, and no region in Florida is as well-equipped to endure the drought as this one.

There's a lesson here for transit and other issues. By cooperating rather than competing to serve the entire region's water needs, Tampa Bay has figured out how to quench its proverbial thirst. Can't we do the same to get moving on transit?

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