Tampa City Council Bans Lawn Sprinkling
March 20, 2009
Property owners in Tampa will not be able to water their lawns with sprinkler systems under a ban adopted this morning by the Tampa City Council.
The new restrictions, the toughest in the region and possibly the state, ban the use of irrigation systems for watering yards and gardens. Lawns would have to be watered by hand or by soaker hoses that severely restrict water flow.
The rules go into effect April 3.
Mayor Pam Iorio proposed phasing in the stricter rules, but several council members said they didn't want to wait and the council approved the changes 5-1. Councilman John Dingfelder opposed the move, raising concerns that the public hadn't been properly notified.
The changes will affect an estimated 140,000 residential and commercial customers in the city and unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County that get water from Tampa. The restrictions will last indefinitely, until enough rain falls the ease the drought.
City officials expect the move to save upwards of 30 million gallons of water a week.
"We are in a crisis," Council Chairman Tom Scott said. "And it's going to get worse before it gets better."
Because it was passed as an emergency ordinance, the council didn't need to hold two public hearings and a second reading of the proposed changes, as usually required.
The move comes as Hillsborough County's reservoir is drying up and as Tampa's primary water source, the Hillsborough River, has reached historically low levels.
"This drought may become the worst on record," Brad Baird, director of the city's water department, told council members today. "Our challenge will be preserving enough water to make it through the dry season."
Despite record shortages, city residents continue to violate outdoor use restrictions.
Water enforcement officers have written an average of six water-use violation citations a day since January. Through random patrols and responding to reports of violations, officers are out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials say.
Violating Tampa's water-use restrictions could result in fines ranging from $100 to $450 and a mandatory court appearance.
The new rules do not affect property owners in unincorporated parts of the county.
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