TAMPA, FLA. — A new 120 million-gallons-per-day (mgd) water treatment plant, among the world’s most sophisticated water treatment facilities, is now providing Tampa Bay Water customers with drinking water that exceeds federal and state drinking water quality standards. Thanks to an innovative approach taken by Tampa Bay Water, a public regional wholesale water provider, the new plant — designed, built, and operated by Veolia Water North America — is the largest design-build-operate (DBO) drinking water project in U.S. history, representing a potential model for other cities facing growing populations, tight budgets, and water resource challenges.
"We’re delighted that our partnership completed the new Tampa Bay Water Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant on time and under budget," said Jerry Seeber, general manager of Tampa Bay Water. "This new facility is the backbone of our regional water service to more than 2.4 million people. By every measure, whether water quality, cost or service, this project is a success."
The cost savings from the project’s first phase was substantial — $80 million on what was originally projected to be a $200 million budget by Tampa Bay Water’s advisors. The speed of the project delivery by Veolia Water North America and its partners was escalated due to the unified approach offered by the DBO model. Guarantees for water quality, water quantity, project timelines, and operations and facility maintenance were established that are otherwise not available without private-sector involvement. Tampa Bay Water also reduced its own administrative and consulting costs through a single procurement.
"By developing a Master Water Plan and using an alternative delivery approach, Tampa Bay Water has done what so many communities should be doing and yet have only begun to study, to provide a cost-effective, dependable and sustainable approach to water resources and water service for citizens and businesses," said Laurent Auguste, president and CEO of Veolia Water Americas.
The project also offers extensive environmental benefits. The region was previously dependent on groundwater supplies, which, when coupled with a rapidly growing population, was not sustainable and resulted in damage to natural ecosystems.
Because of the substantial variability in quality of the region’s source water, Tampa Bay Water specifically selected Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies’ patented ACTIFLO clarification process, which is proven to treat water with high variability. The technology’s added benefit was a much smaller construction footprint. As a result, a hydrobiological monitoring program, which measures hydrological and biological conditions in area rivers and the local canal, has shown use of these source waters is sustainable.
The Tampa Bay Water Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant blends source water from the Alafia River, the Tampa Bypass Canal, the Hillsborough River, and the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, delivering raw water through a 72-inch-diameter pipeline to the treatment plant process equipment. Treatment elements utilize a multi-barrier process including ballasted flocculation (ACTIFLO), ozonation, filtration through granular activated carbon gravity filters, disinfection, chemical dosing, and solids processing. Adjacent to the regional water treatment plant are finished-water storage tanks and a pump station that supplies water to the Tampa Bay Water member governments’ distribution systems.
"Well-managed communities continue to attract new people and economic investment, but they also seek to maintain a good quality of life," said Auguste. "This creates additional pressure on water resources. This pressure represents an exceptional challenge for many cities, and will continue to be a challenge for years to come. Solving these water resource issues requires smart, creative models and creative approaches."
The relationship with Tampa Bay Water goes back to 2000 when Veolia Water North America was chosen through a holistic procurement approach that required companies to form teams (or consortiums) that merged all engineering, construction and operational disciplines. The Veolia Water North America bid team, which included Camp Dresser & McKee as well as Clark Construction, was selected in April 2000 to design, build, and operate (DBO) the publicly-owned facility, which was completed in September 2002.
This approach represented a significant deviation from the norm, and is the reason for Tampa Bay Water’s success. Typically, cities engage in single-step procurements. In these arrangements, companies first bid on engineering services, then on construction services and finally, on operational services should the municipality choose to engage in private-sector operational management.
The DBO process chosen by Tampa Bay Water streamlined this project delivery process to the public’s immediate benefit. Their process enabled greater technology, innovation, speed and flexibility among the bidding entities, because it set the outcome as more important than any prescribed methodology. High water quality at the lowest life-cycle costs could thus be achieved because Veolia Water could bring all project disciplines to the table to establish integrated solutions and greater efficiency.
Seeber stated that after the completion of the first phase of Veolia’s work, Tampa Bay Water member governments and their customers were provided with higher guaranteed water quality and project enhancements at an affordable, cost-effective price.
In 2007, after five years of operational results, Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors unanimously approved an expansion of the Brandon, Fla., treatment facility, making it the nation’s largest DBO project, sharing the honor with Seattle Public Utilities’ 120-mgd Tolt Treatment Facility. The project’s second phase included an open-book accounting methodology to ensure transparency.
"Who better to manage a facility than those with operational expertise who also understand and are responsible for how the treatment process was designed and the facility constructed?" explained Seeber.