Desal economics – a question

I don’t know Florida water issues at all, so maybe someone can help me here.

Tampa Bay Water spent $160 million to build a desal plant. But they don’t use it all that much:

Tampa Bay Water says it costs four times as much to turn water from Tampa Bay into drinking water as it does to pump water out of the ground.

“In these economic times, every penny counts,” said Tampa Bay Water Operations Director Chuck Carden. “If we have less expensive sources to use, why wouldn’t we use them?”

So was the plant’s purpose to meet peaks, like a natural gas power plant that’s designed to only run at times of maximum demand? Is there something going on here re the cost of water at the margin in Florida that I don’t get?

Just some lazyweb questions for a Saturday morning.


  1. I don’t know if it’s the reason they built it, but there were concerns WayBackWhen about the Floridan Aquifer not being able to sustain the water demands of the growing population here. I haven’t heard much of those concerns in the last 5 or so years now though.

  2. In next months’ news… Realizing the brilliance of this short-sighted plan, the Florida state legislature decided to confiscate all money from residents’ bank accounts to prop up budget shortfalls and parties. “It’s extra money we can spend and so cheap it’s practically free. Why wouldn’t we use it?”

    *facepalm* I’m sure the water table respects state boundaries, too, so this kind of blinkered thinking won’t possibly impact Georgia and Alabama.

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