By Matt Wiley

Water pressure could improve in the New Tampa area several months from now, as improvements are being planned for the North Tampa Potable Water System at the Morris Bridge Pumping Station (MBPS) off Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. and Doña Michelle Dr, near I-75.

Also located next to the New Tampa Nature Park, MBPS may soon be getting some improvements, keeping water pressure steady in the area as the population grows, since two resolutions were passed at the June 6 Tampa City Council meeting, approving the design and construction of one project and the design and permitting phases of a second project.

Tampa Water Department director Brad Baird, P.E., says that the first project will replace five Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), or water pump motor drives at the MBPS. Baird adds that the project also will upgrade the station’s piping and meter controls and is expected to cost $4.8 million, which will come from a capital improvement fund, paid for by Tampa Water customers’ bills.

“The system has to keep running throughout construction,” Baird says. “That’s what makes the project so expensive. People turn on the faucet and expect water to come out.”

The second project, Baird explains, aims to keep water flowing at a steady pace as New Tampa continues to grow.

“We are still in the planning stages of this project,” he says. “We are gathering data to model five alternatives, so that we can pick the best, most cost-effective alternative to keep up with growth in the area, whether it’s more tanks, more pumps or a combination thereof. From an engineering standpoint, it’s an intensive and complex problem to solve.”

According to documents submitted to the City Council, the current phase of improvements is estimated to cost $130,810, which is available in the City’s Water Operation Fund. Engineering firm Wharton-Smith, Inc., was awarded the contract for the project, which is expected to take 139 days to complete. The improvements could be sited anywhere in the city, including at MBPS or a combination of locations.

Baird says that once the best option is decided, a design contract will be negotiated and a maximum price set, which he expects will cost several million dollars.

Upon completion, the improvements to the facility will keep water pressure at a minimum of 55 PSI (pounds per square inch) in the New Tampa area (the same pressure it is right now) in anticipation of a growing population in the area over the next 20 years. TWD documents indicate that Reiss Engineering conducted a study (a master plan transmission/distribution hydraulic capacity analysis) in 2009, recommending creating a higher-pressure zone for the North Tampa area. Reiss will be working with Wharton-Smith, Inc., Baird says.

Usually, Tampa Water customers receive their water from the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility, located on N. 30 St. However, whenever water supplies become low, the MBPS becomes the primary water source for customers across the region.

Wharton-Smith, Inc. is tasked with identifying multiple options to improve the valves and pumps within the facility, evaluating the necessary storage volume requirements, determining which systems in the facility can be demolished and removed and perform a hydraulic surge evaluation. The results of all of these studies will then be summed up in a memo and submitted to the City.

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