As Tampa Pulls Plug On Sprinklers, Will Others Follow?
March 20, 2009
As Tampa takes the hose by the nozzle by banning lawn watering with sprinklers, other municipalities are holding off adopting similarly severe restrictions, at least for now.
Some will look for guidance to the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board, which may recommend tighter restrictions when it meets March 31. The agency, known as Swiftmud, already has declared a Level III Extreme Water Shortage for Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.
Hillsborough will continue to allow once-a-week irrigation of established lawns and landscaping. The rules apply to all water sources, including private wells, surface water and utility-provided water.
"At this moment, and I stress at this moment, things do rapidly change around here," said Michelle Van Dyke, spokeswoman for the county's water resource services. "We're allowing Swiftmud to set the rules."
If the water management district issues new recommendations, the county probably would fall in line.
"We're letting Swiftmud take the lead on this," Van Dyke said.
Tampa's new restrictions may be the toughest in the area and possibly the state. As of April 3, lawns must be watered by hand or soaker hose.
The city's reclaimed water customers are not affected by the change. According to the city's ordinance, irrigation using reclaimed water "is not restricted, however, the reclaimed water shall not be used in any wasteful and unnecessary manner."
The restrictions approved Thursday will affect an estimated 140,000 residential and commercial customers in the city and unincorporated areas of Hillsborough who get water from Tampa.
Officials hope to save 30 million gallons of water or more a week. The rules will last until enough rain falls to ease the region's drought, now in its third year.
The Bay area's water woes are compounded by two recent developments.
The 15 billion-gallon reservoir in southern Hillsborough went dry this month, unable to provide another drop to the thirsty region. And the desalination plant in Apollo Beach, which has the capacity to produce 25 million gallons a day, has cut daily production to about 15 million gallons as repairs are made.
In Pasco, a ban on automatic lawn irrigation "is not on the radar system at this time," said Jeff Harris, environmental biologist with the county utilities department.
He said Tampa is in a different boat from Pasco: the city gets it supply from surface water and the regions' water utility, Tampa Bay Water; Pasco has a huge reserve of groundwater resources.
"We're not in the same predicament that they are in," Harris said.
Pasco's rules mirror Swiftmud's recommendations. The county allows lawn watering once a week and sprinkling must be done between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. There is no potable water irrigation on Saturday or Sunday.
Other measures implemented to conserve water include stepping up enforcement by having officers issue citations at all hours and on the weekends.
"We issued 120 citations just on Saturday and Sunday, last weekend," Harris said.
"We have noticed a lessening in demand," he said.
Pasco's utilities department next week will recommend quadrupling the fine for first-time offenders from $30 to $120. Subsequent offenses could cost as much as $500.
"We want it to be a real deterrent to people who are actually scofflaws," Harris said.
In St. Petersburg, water enforcers this week began a predawn shift to find homeowners watering their lawns at night. Over the first three nights, more than 100 citations â?? each carrying a $188 fine â?? were issued.
That's more than in the previous six months of daytime patrols.
In Pinellas County, "we will continue to follow the water management district's direction," assistant utilities director Kevin Becotte said this morning. "We have no plans at this time to follow Tampa's lead."
Pinellas County "will continue to follow the water management district's direction," assistant utilities director Kevin Becotte said this morning. "We have no plans at this time to follow Tampa's lead."
The county always has been proactive in enforcing restrictions, with patrols 24 hours a day, said utilities enforcement supervisor Terrie Grace.
Since Swiftmud declared an extreme water shortage in late October, "we are seeing an actual reduction of violations," Grace said. "Each month, it's a little less."
Don't know when â?? or whether â?? you can water your lawn? Log on to your municipality's Web site for details.
City of Tampa: www.tampagov.net/dept_water/information_resources/restrictions/index.asp
Hillsborough County: www.hillsboroughcounty.org/water/restrictions/
St. Petersburg: www.stpete.org/water/watering_restrictions.asp
Pinellas County: www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/water-restrict.htm
Pasco County: www.pascocountyfl.net/utilities/water/water.pdf
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