Some buildings follow water rules, others don't

Some are feeling the heat.

Some apparently aren't.

Despite the regional water authority's rule that every building using a water cooling tower set its thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, a Wednesday afternoon sampling showed many are ignoring the restriction.

Government buildings, office tower lobbies and shopping mall common areas — all were expected to sweat out the spring. The idea is that the less air conditioning used, the less water needed to flush through the water cooling towers. It was supposed to be one of many conservation efforts during the drought.

But even the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, admits the rule's not being enforced. Local water cops have their hands full citing all of the people overwatering their lawns or watering on the wrong days. Asking them to take buildings' temperatures might be a bit much.

"Their efforts are mostly on landscape watering," said Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix. "But certainly if someone reports a building violating the (78 degree) restriction, we'll look into it."

The St. Petersburg Times sent reporters out with digital indoor-outdoor thermometers, and they took temperatures of nine spots that should be 78 degrees or higher, keeping in mind that temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day. This included the lobby of the Times building in St. Petersburg. The temperatures were taken during the warmest portion of the day, between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., while outdoor temperatures were in the high 80s to low 90s.

Reporters found that most of the chosen government buildings, which should be 78 degrees throughout, appeared to follow the rules. The hottest building was New Port Richey City Hall, which was 80.6 degrees in the front lobby and 81.7 on the second floor, where City Manager Tom O'Neill's office is located.

St. Petersburg City Hall and the Pinellas County utilities building were also 78 degrees or warmer.

Tampa's Water Department building, however, had a reading of 75 degrees shortly after noon.

The coolest building tested was International Plaza, where all common areas are expected to comply. The main common area of the mall was about 74.7 degrees, and the food court was around 73.

St. Petersburg's Bank of America building lobby was the only privately owned business on the list that appeared to follow the rules. It was nearly 80 degrees in the late afternoon.

Swiftmud's Tampa office and headquarters in Brooksville were also tested, by the way, and were 74.6 and 73.6 degrees, respectively. However, Felix pointed out, neither Swiftmud building uses water cooling towers, so they don't fall under the restriction.

Times staff writers Jodie Tillman, Drew Harwell, Kameel Stanley and Logan Neill contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at (727) 893-8452 or nipps@sptimes.com.

Fast facts

Buildings checked

Here's a list of some area buildings that use water cooling towers, and what the thermometers read inside:

Pinellas County Utilities building lobby, Clearwater, 1:50 p.m.: 78.1.

International Plaza mall common area, Tampa, 10:55 a.m.: 74.7.

St. Petersburg City Hall, 4:04 p.m.: 79.

Countryside Mall common area, Clearwater, 2:20 p.m.: 76.9.

Bank of America building lobby, downtown St. Petersburg, 4:33 p.m.: 79.5.

New Port Richey City Hall lobby, 12:10 p.m.: 80.6.

St. Petersburg Times lobby, downtown St. Petersburg, 4:46 p.m.: 79.3. (Note: The lobby temperature was also taken in the morning, reading around 72 degrees.)

Some buildings follow water rules, others don't 05/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 4:57pm]

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