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Public-Private Partnership Saves Regional Water Utility $80 Million
One of the nation's largest design-build-operate projects for water services has officially come on line serving the Tampa Bay region in west-central Florida.
The project, a 66-million-gallon-per-day regional surface water treatment plant, played host to hundreds of local and national water industry professionals last week looking to get a glimpse of the new, state-of-the-art facility. The facility is owned by regional utility Tampa Bay Water but was designed and built and will be operated for the next 15 years by USFilter Operating Services (USFilter). The public-private partnership is USFilter's largest in Florida, and the plant is among the most technologically sophisticated in the world.
Tampa Bay Water officials said that the $144 million DBO project will save the region $80 million over the 15-year term of USFilter's contract with the utility -- a key benefit of the DBO process. Costs are a significant issue in the Tampa Bay region because the agency is required to cut groundwater pumping at long-producing groundwater wells at the end of this year, and the plant is the cornerstone in the first phase of its regional Master Water Plan. Because the new sources of water are more expensive to develop and supply than the area's traditional groundwater, the agency -- and the region's water customers -- are concerned with rising costs.
"Eighty million dollars represents compelling savings," said Jerry Maxwell, Tampa Bay Water general manager. "These savings translate into lower water rates for our residents. Forward-thinking utilities have to consider the benefits of working with a private-sector partner that provides access to the latest technology and operational economies of scale."
USFilter Services Group President Mike Stark said public-private partnerships are serving local governments quite well, noting that USFilter currently serves more than 600 communities. "It's not practical for every municipality in the nation to develop leading-edge technology -- they just don't have the resources, nor do they have the ready access to the scientific and technical talent needed to develop it. Tampa Bay Water is one of the many public entities that have realized the benefits of partnering with the private sector, and today they have a new water plant that was designed and built using an extremely cost-effective and efficient process that incorporates some of the water industry's most advanced technology."
In March 2000, Tampa Bay Water awarded USFilter the contract to design, build and operate the facility. The agreement represents an essential component of Tampa Bay Water's plan to meet the region's need for new drinking water supplies. The new water treatment plant uses USFilter's patented process called ACTIFLO(R). ACTIFLO is widely used throughout the world and is particularly advantageous when treating large flow rates with variable raw water quality -- the conditions confronting the regional water treatment plant.
Maxwell applauded the facility for being built on time and on budget. "This public-private partnership has been a win for the region from the start. USFilter's technological strength and its depth of experience in operating water treatment plants have been evident throughout the process and we look forward to a long, successful partnership," he added.
The contract specifies water quality criteria that are stricter than those required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Act and the even tougher parameters set forth in Tampa Bay Water's governance agreements with its member governments.
Tampa Bay Water has set strict performance measures and has linked them with compensation. If USFilter doesn't meet specific performance metrics in customer service, water quality, capital improvements and operations, the company loses revenues.
"Provisions like these are becoming standard with public-private partnerships, and they serve not only as incentives but also as strong assurances that we'll perform as promised," Stark added.
USFilter partnered with Camp Dresser McKee and Clark Construction for design and construction assistance on the project.