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Speaker shares concerns about potential water problems

Closing the spring semester’s Senior Lecture Colloquium Series, associate professor Don Duke of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy wanted someone to address the environmental needs for a drinking-water provider. So he invited Robert McConnell of Tampa Bay Water to speak Monday in the Business Building in Room 1201.

McConnell, the senior environmental analyst for Tampa Bay Water, spoke to students about general concerns that Tampa Bay Water faces daily, including water distribution, water source protection and drought defense.

McConnell received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Washington University and his master’s in environmental health from USF. McConnell’s job for Tampa Bay Water allows him to provide Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater with wholesale drinking water. According to McConnell, Tampa Bay Water handles 160 million gallons every day, and its water plan is a complex system that draws from wells, rivers and other groundwater sources.

“It is to expand over the next few years,” McConnell said.

Among many responsibilities, McConnell and Tampa Bay Water are accountable for special investigations and study designs in order to maintain ecological, as well as political equilibrium. Frequently, they employ the assistance of researchers at USF when working on study designs and other special projects.

“We need to think not only in a five- and 10-year mind frame,” McConnell said, “but on a biweekly basis as well.”

he drought of 2000 is a good example of why planning short and long-term goals are necessary.

“Now we have drought-proof plans,” McConnell said.

Tampa Bay Water has new projects in the works. One of its goals is aimed at enhancing the Brandon wells. Another project involves Crystals International, a company based out of Plant City that discharges gallons of useful water every day.

“We want to harness and use this water,” McConnell said. “We need to supply water every day and make it cost effective. If people in Tampa Bay or St. Petersburg turn on the tap and no water comes out, they turn to their local government for help, who in turn complains to Tampa Bay Water.”

McConnell also emphasized water conservation during his discussion.

“If people cut back the misuse of lawn sprinklers and the like, we can conserve tens of millions of gallons of water.”