Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay model homes among biggest water users

A Taylor Morrison model home in Riverview was among those cited for violating water restrictions.

SKIP O\u2019ROURKE | Times

A Taylor Morrison model home in Riverview was among those cited for violating water restrictions.

Model homes, vacant symbols of Florida's real estate crash, appear empty and lifeless.

Yet in 2008, they were among the biggest residential consumers of water in the Tampa Bay area.

Of the 35 biggest users last year, seven were model homes that used more than 1 million gallons of water each, according to utility records in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Four of the homes were cited for violating water restrictions.

One Pasco model used about 1.5 million gallons, the 10th biggest residential water consumer in the Tampa Bay area.

"They want to keep the grass nice and green so the home could sell," said Pasco utilities manager Annamarie O'Dell. "People are desperate.''

Water usage has become a hot topic as a three-year drought worsens and local governments struggle to meet demand. On Thursday, Tampa became the first local government in Florida to ban the use of lawn sprinklers.

Some builders say the numbers are deceiving because water from one meter may go to two or three model homes, which are used to lure potential buyers. But even then, the average use would be more than four times that of a typical family.

Unlike the million-dollar estates that top the list of homes using more than 1 million gallons last year, most of the model homes are in the $250,000-$300,000 range.

The model home with the highest water usage, on Tigerflower Court in the Dupree community of Land O'Lakes in Pasco, used about 1.5 million gallons last year. That cost Beazer Homes about $6,500.

Beazer and Ryland Homes own the majority of the model homes with the highest use, records show.

Rylands division president Joe Fontana said meters could cover up to three homes, with regular lawn irrigation and weekly pool refills. Also, real estate agents and prospective buyers flush toilets and run the water in sinks of the homes, many of which have been on the market for years.

Their water use "is not flagrant or anything," Fontana said. "They're big lots."

But county water officials say water use by home builders has been a problem for years. Builders instruct their property managers to "water as you need to keep the curb appeal," said Hillsborough water conservation manager Norm Davis.

Model homes along the half-mile Manistique Way in New Port Richey, two of which used more than 1 million gallons in 2008, have received 68 water citations since June.

Five of Hillsborough's seven highest-using models have been cited for violating water restrictions. A four-bedroom Taylor Morrison home in Riverview, which used more than 1.3 million gallons of water, violated restrictions four times, costing the company $1,000.

Davis said some builders show "little regard for long-term viability of the water resource."

"It would seem,'' he said, "that some builders accept citations as a cost of doing business."

Drew Harwell can be reached at or (813) 226-3386.

Tampa Bay model homes among biggest water users 03/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 23, 2009 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimee:

  2. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  3. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  4. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.