water supply

Climate Variability: Impacts on Water Supply


Understanding the impacts of climate variability is essential for Florida's public water supply utilities, which are among the United States' most vulnerable to sea-level change, storm surges and salt water intrusion into aquifers.

As the largest wholesale water utility in the southeastern United States, Tampa Bay Water continually grapples with seasonal water availability issues and periodic droughts, which will likely be exacerbated by climate change and variability conditions.

Nearly 60 percent of Tampa Bay Water’s water supplies comes from local rivers and Tampa Bay. Using surface water sources adds uncertainty to Tampa Bay Water’s operations. This makes the Tampa Bay region more susceptible to the effects of climate variability. Because of these changes, Tampa Bay Water is involved in several research studies to find answers to the following questions:

  • How will the earth’s changing climate affect our local rainfall? 
  • Will rainfall be less predictable in the future? 
  • Will river flows be less predictable? 
  • How good will our estimates be and what can we rely on for future water supplies?

Tampa Bay Water is working with the Florida Water and Climate Alliance (FloridaWCA), whose members include the University of Florida Water Institute, Florida State University, three water management districts and six major public water supply utilities, to better understand how varying weather affects the reliability of our water supplies. Our engineers and scientists will use this information to better manage our water supply system under whatever conditions Mother Nature may provide in the future.

Tampa Bay Water is also collaborating with other large water providers through the Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA), 10 of the nation's largest water providers that collectively supply drinking water for more than 43 million people throughout the United States. Together, these utilities are collecting data, examining modeling tools and holding forums to exchange information with the goal to better understand the impact of changing weather patterns on the world's drinking water resources.