CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Proposals from four development teams seeking to build the nation's largest saltwater conversion plant in Tampa Bay have shattered price barriers for desalination plants worldwide. Tampa Bay Water, the regional water utility, said the first-year cost estimates it received for a thousand gallons of desalinated water from a new treatment facility all fell below $2.30-per-thousand-gallons -- with some dipping beneath $2-per-thousand. All the proposals were dramatically lower than finished water costs at other seawater desalination plants under construction elsewhere.
The proposals were received on February 17, 1999 and are currently being evaluated for responsiveness. In addition, Tampa Bay Water's consultant, PB Water, will perform a thorough evaluation of all factors that may affect the ultimate ranking, including plant-siting and design, environmental effects, permittability, product water quality and delivery, and financial factors.
Jerry Maxwell, general manager for Tampa Bay Water, said, "All of these proposals were significantly lower than proposals for similar projects internationally over the past several years, and that is great news for Tampa Bay residents. These proposals will focus attention on desalinated water as a low-cost alternative to traditional water sources. The Tampa Bay facility will have important implications for the future acceptance of saltwater conversion as an alternative water source around the world.
"By generating proposals with costs as low as half the price of other desalination plants, we have broken significant barriers with this regional water supply alternative. With one proposal's first-year costs as low as $1.71-per-thousand gallons, our Tampa Bay desalination facility will have the attention of other coastal communities and states as well as many foreign governments," Maxwell said.
The proposal teams for the plant included:
The Tampa Bay proposals included total capitalization of the regional desalination plant, which would be built over the next 30 to 37 months, ranging from $98 million to $129 million for the facility. The proposals assumed that, on completion, the plant would be capable of producing approximately 23 to 25 million gallons of water a day for residents served by Tampa Bay Water's member governments -- Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties and the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.
St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer, who is Chairman of Tampa Bay Water, said, "Our communities and their residents are the beneficiaries of this good news. When we started, we were talking about water priced at $4 per-thousand- gallons. But by encouraging private competition, we lowered prices and made the project work."
Individual team proposals from the four developer teams included six main elements: two estimates of overall pricing of the plant, representing stabilized and unstabilized product water; a capital cost estimate for future plant expansion to 35 mgd, and a cost estimate per thousand gallons for two grades of finished water.
"By working together with Tampa Bay Water and its member governments, we received the lowest prices in the world for desalinated water," said Eugene "Gene" Schiller, Deputy Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). Through an agreement with Tampa Bay Water, SWFWMD will fund as much as 90 percent of the capital costs of the facility.
Tampa Bay Water, through its Interlocal Agreement and Partnership Agreement with SWFWMD, is committed to reducing pumping at wellfields in Northwest Hillsborough and Pasco counties by December 31, 2002. The desalination plant is the cornerstone of plans to find sources of water to replace the initial wellfield cuts. The new desalination facility is also an important element of the Tampa Bay Water Master Water Plan. Unlike other Master Water Plan projects, the desalination facility will be privately owned and operated and will deliver desalinated water through a pipeline to Tampa Bay Water's distribution system.
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