Potable Water Handout

May 2023

The following information was provided as an informational handout at the Special Commission meeting help on May 2, 2023. It is a brief description of the Town's potable water system options as discussed during the meeting.

Description of Town Water System

  • 1,559 connections serving 4,021 residents
  • 7 active wells with gradually deteriorating water quality and 2 potential well sites
  • Aging treatment plant needing renewal and replacement (R&R) 40.8 miles of pipelines, hydrants, valves and water meters
  • Average consumption = 839,000 gallons per day
    • Approximately 50% of consumption is irrigation 

County Wholesale Option

  • Requires upgrading two existing interconnections (estimated $150,000)
  • Discontinue current operations of wells and treatment plant for an initial savings of $130,000
  • Net financial impact of $1,180,000 funded by a combination of rate increases and water fund reserves
  • Potential Benefits
    • Interconnections will increase flow and quality by reducing water age
    • Maintains Town control over future water supply quality
    • Allows time to investigate other options for long-term high quality water supply
    • Meets Southwest Florida Water
    • Management District goal of using local sources first
    • Resolve TTHM levels and eliminate the
    • DEP Consent Order

County Proposal for Transfer

  • Transfer only the distribution system to the County; No land, wells or treatment plant, Town customers then become Pinellas County Utility customers.
  • As a condition of transfer Town must pay $4.1 million to replace 21.8 miles of Galvanized Steel Pipe (GSP) and Cast Iron (CI) within first 5 years. 

Water System Options

  • Sale to private water utility
  • Upgrading and replacing water treatment plant
  • Exploring partnership with the City of Clearwater
  • Florida Governmental Utility Authority (FGUA)
  • County wholesale customer
Water System Options Chart, displays options in chart form

Assessment of Pipe Condition

According to the County's consultant, the risk of failure and consequence of failure (COF), assessment of the Town's GSP and CI pipes are in a medium risk category. Staff inspections of 4 samples of pipe material indicated they are in better than expected condition for pipes of that age, and are not in need of immediate replacement. The Town’s historic rate of pipe failure that could be attributed to material failure is a very low 2.5 incidents per year over the last 10 years, at annual average cost of $11,000 per year. 

Chart displaying Consequence of Failure (CoF) for pipes

Source: (Black & Veatch, 2022) 

Drivers for Replacement

  • Upgrades for new developments
  • Frequent pipe failure - high cost for repair
  • Service interruption environmental impact, users dissatisfaction
  • Long-term R&R planning/Capital Improvement Program

Source: (American Water Works Assn., 2023) 

Town and County Residential Water Bill Comparison

5/8" Meter = 55% of Belleair's residential customers at 5,000 gallons 

*based on average user of 5/8" meter customers

FY 2023: Belleair RatesProposed Wholesale Belleair RateProposed
County Rates
Surcharge Cost*

*Town would pay the County $1.8 million from water reserves; residents would pay a 25% surcharge for 5 years to cover the remainder of the 4.1M upfront pipe replacement cost.

For users who consume 5k gallons per month, bills will increase by about $15.
For users who consume 10k gallons per month, bills will increase by about $25.

Staff Recommendation

Enter into a wholesale agreement with Pinellas County for the provision of potable water. 

  • Requires an upgrade to two existing interconnections (estimated $150,000) 

Potential Benefits

  • Eliminates the DEP Consent Order (resolves TTHM levels)
  • Interconnections will increase flow and improve quality
  • Maintains Town control over future water supply quality
  • Allows time to investigate other options for long-term high quality water supply
  • Meets Southwest Florida Water Management District goal of using local sources first 

What are TTHM's?

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM's) are a common organic chemical that occurs in drinking water. TTHM's are a group of chemicals which are created when the chlorine used for water treatment reacts with organic materials in the water. The Town and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have entered into a consent order to reduce the level of TTHM's to below the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). DEP has approved the Town’s pilot study to correct the issue. The project is underway and should be completed by the end of summer 2023. Results will be reported at that time.

Questions & Answers

  • How do TTHM levels affect me right now?
    • TTHMs are not shown to have immediate effects. There is only a chance of illness only after significant, long term consumption of elevated levels. According to the Florida Department of Health, the slight risk occurs after decades of drinking water with high levels of TTHMs. This risk is small compared to the risk of potentially deadly infectious diseases in drinking water that is not disinfected.
  • Will my water quality change if the Town changes to County water?
    • Water quality is deemed to be compatible. There is no predictable change in color, taste or smell.
  • How much will my bill increase if the Town enters into a transfer agreement with the County? 
    • The rate is projected to increase regardless of any option chosen. The increase options will be discussed with the Commission.
  • Will the Town have control over costs increases or water quality if the Town buys water at the wholesale rate?
    • Wholesale will give the Town more control over rate increases. Water quality is regulated by Tampa Bay Water.
  • I have heard that Town water pipes are contaminated and need to be replaced.
    • Our consultant is confident Town pipes are in good condition. Four samples of pipe in our system indicated that none were at high risk of failure. Two of the cast iron samples were from a pipeline designated in the BV study as high risk.
  • Can the County stop providing water to the Town? 
    • State statutes prohibit the withholding of water from the Town. 
  • Will we still receive quality customer service? 
    • County retail customers are satisfied with services. In a wholesale arrangement, Town staff will continue to provide high quality services.