City council vote upholds controversial sprinkler ban
April 10, 2009
A proposal to overturn the city's controversial lawn sprinkler ban has failed.
Councilman John Dingfelder made an unsuccessful attempt Thursday to amend Tampa's tough watering restrictions by allowing property owners to irrigate with lawn sprinklers twice a month.
The vote was 4-2, with Dingfelder and Councilwoman Saul-Sena voting for it. Council Chairman Tom Scott, and council members Gwen Miller, Joseph Caetano and Charlie Miranda voted against the proposal. Councilwoman Mary Mulhern was absent.
Dingfelder said he thinks the city rushed to judgment on the new restrictions and tried to persuade his colleagues at last Thursday's council meeting to end the sprinkler ban.
That attempt ended up tied with a 3-3 vote. Miller, whose vote would have broken the tie, was absent from that meeting. Thursday, Caetano voted against loosening the rules, switching his vote from the previous meeting when he sided with Dingfelder.
Dingfelder said he thought the vote to ban watering with sprinklers was a mistake.
"Nobody has come to us with hard facts that show we needed to impose these harsh, unprecedented conditions on the community," he said.
Miranda, who supports the city's get-tough stance on water shortages, disagreed.
"We have an emergency on our hands," he said. "Apparently some people don't get it."
Saul-Sena, who initially supported the sprinkler ban, changed her position after hearing from constituents concerned about the impact on lawns and gardens.
"I think twice-a-month watering is appropriate," she said. "It might be enough to save peoples' gardens."
Tampa's new watering restrictions, to date the toughest in the state, allow only hand-watering of lawns one day a week. Watering of plants, flower beds and other types of landscaping also are restricted to hand-watering, or so-called microirrigation.
Reclaimed water users and shallow well owners are exempt from the sprinkler ban.
City officials say the new restrictions are working and point to a reduction in water consumption as proof that the city's water customers are getting the message.
Since April 3, when the new rules went into effect, the city has conserved more than 50 million gallons of water - far exceeding the original estimate of 30 million gallons.
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