Revived lawns get reprieve from ban
May 29, 2009
The city's 2-month-old prohibition on lawn sprinklers has been lifted.
The city council voted Thursday to ease Tampa's tough irrigation restrictions to allow property owners use of sprinklers once a week on their designated watering day.
Charlie Miranda and Mary Mulhern voted against easing the rules, urging fellow council members to keep the sprinkler ban in place at least until the rainy season begins.
"Three years of drought isn't solved by two weeks of rain," Mulhern said.
Under the changes, Tampa water customers, including roughly 35,000 users who live outside the city limits, still need to abide by the Southwest Florida Water Management District's rules, which currently ban noncommercial power washing and car washing.
The new rules go into effect beginning Monday and would remain in place until the water management district's board of directors loosen its emergency restrictions.
Mayor Pam Iorio had asked council members to loosen the rule, the state's toughest.
Iorio said two weeks of heavy rain has restored the river flow to 152 million gallons a day and the reservoir, Tampa's primary source of drinking water, to 21.7 feet. City officials said the river flow had risen to roughly 213 million gallons a day by Thursday morning.
When the sprinkler ban was approved, the river had reached a historic low of 20 feet.
Council chairman Tom Scott said he thinks the city's water emergency has subsided.
He said several council members had pledged to ease the rules when the river returned to normal levels and that residents would resent them if they didn't follow through.
"The public respects honesty," Scott said. "We kept our word."
Tampa's restrictions allowed only hand-watering of lawns, plants, flower beds and other types of landscaping one day a week, in addition to other limitations. Reclaimed water users and private shallow-well owners were largely exempt from the sprinkler ban.
The issue has divided the council that voted nearly unanimously on March 19, with little input from the public, to impose the harsh conditions on the city's water customers.
Several attempts to rescind the sprinkler ban, most recently last Thursday, had failed.
City officials say they understand the restrictions have caused hardships but argue that they were necessary to protect the city's water supply. They say the ban has conserved 500 million gallons of water since April 3, an average of about 13 million gallons a day.
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