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Entrepreneurs make money trucking reclaimed water to Tampa homes

Lenny Henry of L. Henry Landscape Maintenance sprays reclaimed water at a Beach Park yard. Businesses have found a short-term niche, getting free reclaimed water that the city would dump into Tampa Bay then charging to deliver and water.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Lenny Henry of L. Henry Landscape Maintenance sprays reclaimed water at a Beach Park yard. Businesses have found a short-term niche, getting free reclaimed water that the city would dump into Tampa Bay then charging to deliver and water.

TAMPA

After the city banned lawn sprinkling in April, Russ Callahan signed up to hook into the city's reclaimed water system.

He was told it would be four to six weeks before the connection, which allows unlimited watering, could be made.

But Callahan couldn't wait.

So he hired L. Henry Landscape Maintenance to deliver reclaimed water to his home once a week and water the yard.

Only about 8,700 city property owners have access to reclaimed water lines that run through some South Tampa neighborhoods.

Most of the city's highly treated wastewater — about 55 million gallons a day — is dumped into Tampa Bay. It is, however, available in bulk. Typically, it costs about $3 to fill a 2,000-gallon truck. But last month, to generate interest in reclaimed water delivery, the city eliminated all charges.

Businesses taking advantage of the offer say there's great demand for the service.

"There's been a huge response and probably more than we can handle for the size company we are," said Alisa Henry, who owns L. Henry Landscape Maintenance with her husband.

Within two weeks, the couple earned back the cost of renting and operating the 4,900-gallon truck by charging $50 for the service call and $50 for 500 gallons of water — enough for a small front yard.

Henry plans to lease another truck.

Harry Michalek, owner of Proturf Landscapes Inc., tells the same story.

"This is a short-lived venture, but it's really taken off," he said.

Michalek was charging $50 for a service call and 20 cents a gallon, but dropped the per-gallon price to 15 cents when he started making money on the service.

"I don't want to be the guy in the hurricane that's selling a bag of ice for $50," he said. "If I can, I'll even lower it to 10 cents a gallon."

He figures he'll bring in some new long-term customers by delivering the water.

Callahan said it costs him about $100 a week for the service, more than he paid to irrigate with drinking water.

"But it's a necessity," said Callahan, 58, a real estate financier.

He tried hand watering, but found it too time consuming.

He reasons he'd pay much more to replace his sod and landscaping if they don't survive the drought until the rainy season.

City Council member Charlie Miranda has been pushing for more people to provide delivery of reclaimed water.

In the old days, he said, bread, milk and even kerosene were delivered directly to homes.

"If they can do that, how come we can't have trucks deliver reclaimed water," he said. "I would imagine that whoever gets into this could parlay it to a big business."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Entrepreneurs make money trucking reclaimed water to Tampa homes 05/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 11:05pm]
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