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Understanding Tampa's Water Supply - Source and Treatment of the City's Water

Learn about Tampa's water supply, treatment processes, quality monitoring, and water purification solutions for homes and businesses from Aqua-Wise, leading provider of water softeners, filters, UV, and RO systems.
Learn about Tampa's water supply, treatment processes, quality monitoring, and water purification solutions for homes and businesses from Aqua-Wise, leading provider of water softeners, filters, UV, and RO systems.

Tampa's water supply comes from a variety of sources, all which require thorough treatment to ensure the water is safe for consumption. The city's main source of water is the Floridan Aquifer, a vast underground reservoir which provides high-quality freshwater. However, population growth and increased demand have put stress on this vital resource. Tampa now supplements the aquifer with surface water from rivers and reservoirs.

While naturally occurring, the source water contains contaminants that must be removed. Treatment facilities use advanced purification methods to eliminate harmful substances and pathogens. Getting clean, safe water to residents requires an extensive infrastructure network, careful monitoring, and the latest innovations.

The Floridan Aquifer System

The Floridan Aquifer underlies all of Florida and parts of several neighboring states. This ancient freshwater sea contains over 3.5 quadrillion gallons of water. Springs and artesian wells provide natural access points to the aquifer's stores. In the Tampa area, groundwater is extracted through deep well pumping.

However, decades of excessive pumping have caused problems. Aquifer levels in some regions have dropped substantially, allowing seawater intrusion along coastal areas. Pumping has also reduced pressure in the aquifer, diminishing flow from springs. Careful management is now required to sustain this vital resource.

Surface Water Sources

With the Floridan Aquifer nearing its sustainable limits, Tampa has turned to alternative sources to meet water demands. The City supplements groundwater with treated surface water from the Hillsborough River, Tampa Bypass Canal, and C.W. Bill Young Reservoir.

The Hillsborough River flows into Tampa Bay, providing both recreational opportunities and drinking water. The Tampa Bypass Canal is part of a flood control system and reservoir network that also yields water supply. The C.W. Bill Young Reservoir stores over 15 billion gallons diverted from the Alafia and Hillsborough Rivers.

Surface water needs extensive treatment to meet drinking water standards. Sediment, organic matter, pathogens, and chemical contaminants must be removed through multi-stage purification processes.

Water Treatment Methods

Tampa operates three major water treatment plants:

  • David L Tippen Water Treatment Plant

  • Richard A. Machek Water Treatment Plant

  • Sulphur Springs Water Treatment Plant

These facilities use the following processes to clean source water:


Chlorine or ozone is added to raw water to kill microorganisms. This prevents pathogens from surviving the later treatment stages.

Coagulation and Flocculation

Chemicals like aluminum sulfate are mixed into the water, causing suspended particles to clump together into larger “flocs” that can be filtered out.


The water flows into large tanks where flocs slowly sink to the bottom, removing fine particles and organic matter.


The water is then filtered through layers of anthracite coal, silica sand, and garnet to trap remaining particles.

Primary Disinfection

Additional chlorine kills any bacteria or viruses that made it through the previous stages. Ammonia is also added to create longer-lasting chloramine disinfectant.

Corrosion Control

Chemicals adjust the water’s pH and alkalinity to prevent lead and copper leaching from pipes.

Some facilities also use advanced treatments like ozone to oxidize contaminants, activated carbon filters to remove organic compounds, and UV light to inactivate pathogens. The finished water is then pumped to homes, businesses, and storage facilities through an underground pipe network.

Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting

Stringent testing protocols ensure Tampa's tap water meets all federal and state standards. Certified operators check chemical levels and run daily lab tests for bacteria. Over 120 parameters are regularly monitored, including:

  • Microorganisms like E. coli and cryptosporidium

  • Inorganic chemicals such as metals, salts, and asbestos

  • Organic compounds including pesticides, herbicides, and VOCs

  • Radiologicals like radium and radon

Annual Consumer Confidence Reports detail local water quality data. Tampa's drinking water consistently scores excellent marks for compliance and safety. However, risks still remain which can impact the water after it leaves the treatment plant.

Protecting Water Quality Within the Home

Tampa's centralized water system delivers high-quality drinking water to customer’s taps. But problems can occur in aging household plumbing and pipes that leach contaminants like lead and copper into the water. Common issues include:

  • Hard Water - High mineral content reduces soap efficiency and clogs pipes and appliances.

  • Corrosion - Lead and copper from old pipes and solder contaminates water, especially if acidic. Children are particularly vulnerable.

  • Scale Buildup - Hard water deposits decrease flow and efficiency.

  • Chlorine Taste and Odor - Disinfectant levels may exceed personal preference.

  • Microorganisms - Bacteria and pathogens can enter through leaks and backflow.

  • Iron and Manganese - Metals stain fixtures and cause brownish tint.

  • Pesticides - Runoff from lawns and gardens can contaminate water.

Many of these issues can be resolved with specialized point-of-use water treatment solutions from Aqua-Wise, such as:

Proper system maintenance is also critical. Aqua-Wise offers affordable service plans to keep water treatment equipment operating at peak efficiency.

Improving Water Quality In Your Home

The first step is testing your water to identify any issues. Aqua-Wise provides a free water analysis to check for hardness, iron, contaminants, and more. Their water experts can then recommend the best solutions for your needs and budget.

Reliable water softeners, filters, UV sterilizers, and reverse osmosis systems can remove impurities and protect your family's health. And proper maintenance keeps these systems working optimally for years.

Aqua-Wise also offers financing options like 0% APR funding to make water treatment affordable. Investing in better water quality provides lasting benefits and can prevent costly plumbing repairs down the road.

Schedule Your FREE Water Test Today: 727-236-7161

References and Resources:

City of Tampa Water Department

EPA Drinking Water Health Advisories for Lead

CDC Information on Water Quality and Testing

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