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Questions, answers on new Tampa Bay water restrictions

Editor's Note: This Q&A will be updated regularly. Scroll to the bottom to see the newest responses.

Amid a three-year drought, the Southwest Florida Water Management District imposed its most severe water restrictions ever. They start Friday and run at least through June 30.

What are the new hours for lawn irrigation?

All lawn watering remains limited to the once-a-week schedule already in effect. Hours for sprinkling will be midnight to 4 a.m. for properties less than 1 acre. For properties larger than 1 acre, it's midnight to 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight. City of Tampa water customers cannot use lawn sprinklers at all.

Hand-watering will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. on watering days.

What about my landscaping?

Sprinklers can only be used on watering days. You can use a watering can, hose equipped with an automatic shutoff nozzle, or microirrigation system three days a week. Even-number addresses can water this way on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. For odd-number addresses, it's Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

What about new sod and landscaping?

You have to follow the new restrictions on hours, but fresh sod still gets a 30-day establishment period. For the first 15 days, new turf may be watered any day of the week. For the next 15 days, you can water every other day.

New landscaping has a 60-day establishment period. For the first 15 days, the plants can be watered any day of the week. You can water every other day for the next 30 days and twice a week in the final 15 days.

Who is affected by the rules?

All Tampa Bay Water customers, which includes Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties and most of their cities. Cities not affected are Belleair, Dade City, Dunedin, Plant City, San Antonio, Temple Terrace and Zephyrhills.

If you have a private well or reclaimed water, please check with your local government. Links to their Web sites are at our special report, Tampa Bay Water Crisis. There's a link on this page above.

Do I have to turn off my backyard fountain?

Yes. Only fountains that use reclaimed water or saltwater are permitted.

Can I wash my car or pressure wash my house?

You will have to go to a commercial car wash or hire a commercial pressure washer.

Will I have to set my thermostat at 78 degrees or above?

The thermostat rule applies only to buildings with water-based cooling systems — typically government buildings, common areas in malls, and lobbies of multitenant office buildings.

Are golf courses and farms affected?

No.

Do the rules affect me if I have a private well? Do I have to register my well?

Swiftmud says residents in Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas counties using other sources of water, either private well water or water from utilities not affected by the Phase IV measures, remain under the current Modified Phase III restrictions.

However, your local government could apply stricter rules for private well or reclaimed water. You can check for that and whether you have to register a well by following the links at our special Tampa Bay Water Crisis report, which is linked on this page above.

I was planning on pressure washing my house this weekend to prepare it for painting. Do I have to hire a company now?

Yes. Personal pressure washing is no longer allowed.

Do the new restrictions apply to vegetable gardens?

Here's what Swiftmud says about landscape and non-lawn watering:

Watering schedule

Limited Days: Watering of landscapes using an in-ground irrigation system (rotor and spray sprinkler heads) or a hand-held hose equipped with a portable sprinkler remains limited to the same once-per-week schedule as lawn watering.

Watering of landscapes (non-lawn) using a sprinkling can, hand watering with a hose equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle, or micro-irrigation is now limited to three days per week. Micro-irrigation includes soaker hoses, drip tubes, microjets and other forms of low-volume irrigation technology. Even addresses may use any of these forms of efficient irrigation on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Odd addresses may do so on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Different Hours:

Midnight to 4 a.m. for properties less than one acre in size, using an in-ground irrigation system (rotor and spray sprinkler heads).

Midnight to 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight for properties more than one acre, using an in-ground rotor and spray irrigation system.

6–8 a.m. and 6–10 p.m. for properties any size, using a sprinkling can, hand-held hose equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle, or micro-irrigation.

I have a private well for watering my lawn and I get my drinking water from Utilities Inc. Utilities Inc has their own wells in our mobile home park. What rules do I follow?

If you have a private well, but a separate utility company only for drinking water, you still must follow the Phase 3 restrictions.

I have a 6-foot pond with aerator spray in my front yard that holds fish, frogs and flora. Is this allowable?

Swiftmud has received a lot of questions about these type of ponds. If it uses water — city, county, reclaimed or well — it applies to the decorative fountain category. But it gets complicated if it's keeping fish alive. Contact Swiftmud at 1-800-836-0797, ext. 2298 for more specific information.

Can you wash your car over your lawn during lawn watering hours?

Residential car washing is not permitted, period. You're still using water to wash your car. Take comfort in the fact that everyone else will have dirty cars too.

Are there any restrictions regarding filling my son's kiddie pool?

Kiddie pools are not specified in the Phase 4 watering restrictions, so they are fine. For now, at least.

I live in a gated community. We use county water for drinking, but community-owned wells for irrigation. We are having much debate here over whether the well water can be used for irrigation.

You can use the gated community or private well water for irrigation, but it must be within Phase 3 restriction guidelines, which would be one day a week on a designated day. That day depends on the last number of your address. You can get specifics for your community by going to our links at our special Water Crisis report.

Are there are specific restrictions on "water toys," like Slip and Slide, or kid play sprinklers?

Swiftmud discourages the use of devices like Slip 'n Slides, and some local restrictions totally prohibit them, so check with your local utility.

Are goverment properties exempt from these restrictions? I see the city of Temple Terrace watering medians several times a week.

Government properties also follow restrictions. Some medians use reclaimed; if in doubt, report the approximate location to water.restrictions@watermatters.org and it will be checked into.

Questions, answers on new Tampa Bay water restrictions 03/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 4, 2009 11:25am]
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