U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   04/01/2004
 
Ellen Posivach, City Manager
Tarpon Springs, Florida
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers role in the nation’s water resource needs in the 21st century.

I am Ellen Posivach, the City Manager of Tarpon Springs, Florida. Thank you for allowing me to provide testimony on this very important topic.

Tarpon Springs is located along the west coast of Florida within the Tampa Bay Region. The Tampa Bay Region along the west coast of the State of Florida is home to nearly 3 million residents. In addition, approximately 5 million tourists visit the area annually to enjoy the gulf coast area. The Tampa Bay region is growing rapidly, which places a stress upon our natural resources, particularly our water supply.

Inland freshwater wellfields have provided the historical water supply for the region. Over time, the concentrated pumping from these freshwater wellfields has produced measurable environmental damage, including dried up lakes and wetlands. In response to this problem, the regional water management district, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), has placed limits on the withdrawals from eleven overstressed regional facilities.

The Tampa Bay region now uses an average of 247 million gallons of drinking water every day (mgd). Of this, our regional water supplier Tampa Bay Water supplies 158 mgd to its members, all of this from groundwater. As part of the regulatory limits, fresh groundwater pumping is required to be cut to 121 mgd by 2003 and 90 mgd by 2008. The only way we can do this is by developing an alternative system of water supply that is dispersed and separated from current areas of withdrawal.

Current water and sewer rates in the Tampa Bay Region are as high as twice the national average for a typical single-family household usage of 7,000 gallons per month.

The City of Tarpon Springs has developed an Alternative Water Supply Plan based on the study of available water resources with a cost-effective approach to achieve a sustainable quality water supply. A key component of this plan is the utilization of state-of-the-art membrane treatment to convert unusable brackish groundwater to drinking water. Through a number of dispersed, moderate capacity wells located near the gulf coast, needed water supply can be produced locally in a sustainable fashion while enhancing the recovery of previously overpumped inland wellfields.

The initial proposed water supply facility will produce 5.0 mgd of finished water with the capability of future expansion. The City has completed a preliminary cost estimating, site review, and discussions with the public for the proposed project. The public has provided positive input on the need to develop alternatives to freshwater pumping. The preliminary cost estimate for the complete 5.0 mgd project is $37 million.

As the next step, the City is reviewing a test well program to confirm the suitability of groundwater in this area. The completion of the facility would supply sufficient water for the City's needs, and additional water available for other water suppliers in the region. This project is anticipated to accommodate future capacity expansion of at least 3.0 mgd to further meet the needs of the region.

The proposed Alternative Water Supply Plan will allow previously over-pumped areas to recover so that the environment can be sustained and protected.

Alternative Water Supply projects like this are consistent with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) "Environmental Operating Principals" which include striving to achieve environmental sustainability, seeking a balance and synergy among human development and natural systems through the design of economic and environmental solutions, and finding win-win solutions to the nation's problems that also protect and enhance the environment.

We believe alternative water supply projects such as this can only be achieved with the combined efforts of federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector. We have initiated partnering with each of these groups and we ask for your support in allowing federal programs of this type to remain sufficiently funded. By working together to develop sustainable regional water supply sources, we can protect our environment today and for future generations. We look forward to working with the USACE in seeing this initiative to success.

Further technical information is available from the following of the City of Tarpon Springs:

Paul Smith, Public Services Administrator (727) 942-5610 City Manager Ellen Posivach (727) 938-3711

Further policy related information is available from the following of the City of Tarpon Springs:

Mayor Beverley Billiris (727) 938-3711

On behalf of the citizens of Tarpon Springs, Florida, and millions of Florida west coast residents who must rely on the area's surface and ground waters, we ask the Committee to consider this testimony in prioritizing authorizations for additional USACF projects to assist in developing alternative water supplies in areas of great need. These project authorizations will allow projects to he completed for environmentally sustainable supply while maintaining affordability for our citizens.