Lawn water limits eased in most of area
July 6, 2010
Many municipalities and public utilities in the Tampa Bay area are allowing twice-a-week lawn watering, now that the Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud, has given them the go-ahead.
Pinellas County Utilities is not one of them. Neither is Pasco County Utilities.
That means most residents in Hillsborough County now may irrigate twice a week, but much of the population in Pinellas and Pasco still is limited to once a week.
The reason has to do with the bureaucratic way in which watering restrictions are handled.
In Pinellas County, for example, county commissioners passed an ordinance in 2003 restricting lawn watering with potable water to once a week.
Some of the other government entities did not pass such measures; instead they just mirrored Swiftmud's rules.
So, after Swiftmud on June 29 eased restrictions from once- to twice-a-week lawn watering, the other water departments simply alerted users they could double the number of times a week they turned the sprinklers on.
These include the Tampa Water Department, the Hillsborough County Water Resource Services division, and St. Petersburg Water Resources Department.
Plant City and Temple Terrace also are returning to twice-a-week lawn watering.
In large swaths of Pinellas County, however, because of the ordinance, water users have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, said Terrie Grace, who is in charge of the water restrictions enforcement division at Pinellas County Utilities.
Pasco County, too, has an ordinance restricting watering to once a week, but there is no talk of changing it, said Jeff Harris, environmental biologist with Pasco County Utilities.
Tampa also enacted an ordinance in 2006 to restrict lawn watering to once a week, said Elias Franco, distribution division manager for the Tampa Water Department.
At the time, the ordinance was stricter than anything Swiftmud had in place, Franco said.
But when the district tightened its rules last year, the water department went before the Tampa City Council and asked that the 2006 ordinance be retired.
Because it was, the Tampa Water Department was poised to inform its customers they could return to twice-a-week lawn watering as soon as Swiftmud made its decision, Franco said.
The water management agency was able to ease the restriction in large part because the area has received normal or above-normal amounts of rain, thanks largely to El Nino, and the reservoirs are full. Its once-a-week restriction had been in effect since 2007.
Still, while more lawn watering is allowed, officials with the water management district are asking users to be efficient and water only when necessary.
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