Tampa's water usage drops amid new rules
April 9, 2009
Forcing Tampa water customers to turn off their sprinklers helped the city save more than 50 million gallons of drinking water this past week, far exceeding expectations.
Property owners were allowed to water their yards on Sundays and Tuesdays before the city banned lawn sprinkling April 3.
This past Sunday, the first since the city began enforcing tough new restrictions, water consumption dropped to 59.8 million gallons compared to 77.3 million gallons consumed on the same watering day one month ago. On Tuesday, consumption fell to 60.5 million from 76.4 million gallons one month ago.
On the other days since the ban, water consumption dropped between 5 million and 6 million gallons a day.
In all, about 50 million gallons were saved when city officials expected about 30 million gallons to be saved.
"Obviously, the message is getting out that we are in a severe drought," said Brad Baird, the city's water department director. "This drop in demand is directly attributable to people conserving water inside and outside of their homes."
During a typical week, the city's 645,000 water users consume about 532 million gallons.
Still, not everyone appears to be getting the message.
In the past two weeks, the city has issued 142 citations to residential and commercial property owners caught violating watering restrictions. That's more than double the number of citations issued during the same period last year.
The restrictions allow only hand-watering of lawns and shrubbery one day a week and will last until Oct. 1 unless enough rain falls to ease the drought.
The measures come as the Hillsborough River, Tampa's primary source of drinking water, has reached historically low levels amid a three-year regional drought.
Local landscaping and irrigation contractors argue that the restrictions are unnecessary and say they are losing business. They want the city to loosen the rules.
Today, the city council is expected to discuss a proposal from Councilman John Dingfelder to amend the new restrictions to allow watering with sprinklers twice a month. Dingfelder thinks the city rushed to judgment on the new restrictions and tried to convince his colleagues at last Thursday's council meeting to end the sprinkler ban.
But the motion tied with a 3-3 vote and did not pass. Councilwoman Gwen Miller, whose vote would have broken the tie, was absent. Miller could not be reached for comment.
The council meeting begins at 9 a.m. today at city hall on 315 E. Kennedy Blvd. The public can attend, but unless the council votes to open the meeting to public comment, they will not be allowed to speak.
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