Apollo Beach desalination facility could be future of Florida's water supply

- Florida may be surrounded by oceans, but the state's drinking water supply is far from endless.

Florida is one of 14 states predicted to face a water shortage by the year 2050, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

At the Tampa Bay Water desalination plant near Apollo Beach, a process is underway that could help provide a long-term solution.

Since it began production in 2007, the plant has turned 25 million gallons of saltwater into drinking water each day.

The water is transported to the desalination plant daily through pipelines running from the Tampa Electric Big Bend Power Station next door.

Tampa Electric uses bay water to cool off its machines. Tampa Bay Water later uses the same supply in an effort to conserve water.

It typically takes two hours to remove all the salt and minerals to create clean, drinkable water. The final product is later combined with two other local water sources as it runs through underground pipes and into the faucets of residents.

"We use the water from the bay, the seawater. We also have river water, the surface water and we have groundwater, through our northern part of the region," explained Chief Operating Officer Chuck Carden.

Carden said the water is safe to drink and there's no difference in taste from tap water.

The Tampa Bay Water desalination plant is the largest of its kind in the United States. Tampa Bay Water serves Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties.

"We relied 20 years ago on just one source, and it was groundwater," said Carden. "Having all your eggs in one basket was an issue, so now we have two more eggs in that basket. We can move and mix, and we have every base covered."

Tampa Bay Water hopes to expand production from 25 to 35 million gallons of water a day.

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