Watering Plan Floated
March 25, 2009
City officials are considering a novel approach to get more reclaimed water onto parched lawns in the drought-plagued Tampa Bay area: give it away.
They are contacting landscapers and utility contractors to determine whether it would be feasible to fill watering trucks with reclaimed water to spray on lawns.
"These are trying times," said Brad Baird, director of the Tampa water department. "This will give residents who can't hook up to the system the option of getting reclaimed water."
Whether the city could find any takers remains to be seen.
One landscaping contractor said such a move would be cost-prohibitive for consumers.
"It's going to be a hell of lot more expensive than turning on the tap," said Shea Hughes, president of Sunrise Landscaping. "You're talking a lot of labor, equipment and time."
City officials say the demand for reclaimed water from residential customers has risen dramatically since last week, when the city council approved new watering restrictions aimed at conserving the region's drinking water supply amid a three-year drought.
The new rules, the toughest in the state, go into effect April 3 and will allow only hand-watering of lawns one day a week. Reclaimed water users are exempt from the rules, which will remain in effect for several months or until the rainy season begins.
Because Tampa's reclaimed water system is limited to a few thousand residents in the South Tampa area, city officials have not been able to meet the growing demand.
Like most cities, Tampa generates more reclaimed water than it uses. The excess, roughly 55 million gallons a day, is dumped into Tampa Bay.
The reclaimed water system could serve 8,700 residents in Hyde Park, Davis Islands and Beach Park. There are 3,100 residents connected to the system. It can take up to six weeks to get service after paying the hook-up fee.
Plans to expand distribution lines to other neighborhoods are years away.
Under the idea being floated, contractors would have to be licensed and have water trucks capable of holding at least 1,000 gallons.
Individual homeowners would not be permitted to fill barrels or other containers.
Baird said he did not know how much contactors would charge for the reclaimed water but said the city would not regulate prices.
"Ultimately, it will be up to the customer to get quotes from other contractors to make sure they're not overcharged," he said. "We're going to let the market self-regulate."
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