Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay officials don't monitor whether buildings with water cooling towers meet Swiftmud's 78-degree rule

Night and day, county and city inspectors are searching for homeowners watering their lawns too much. They're checking on whether fountains are turned off. They're keeping an eye out for such forbidden practices as fundraising carwashes and residential pressure-washing.

After all, in Tampa Bay's ongoing drought, every drop of water is precious, and so all the watering restrictions must be obeyed.

All but one.

So far, no official is enforcing the thermostat rule — the one that says offices and stores in buildings that use water cooling towers for air conditioning must set their thermostats at 78 degrees or above.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, better known as Swiftmud, imposed a host of tough new water-use restrictions last month, after getting an update on the three-year drought. Weather experts predict a drier than normal spring that will continue at least until the start of the rainy season in June.

Officials hope the new rules will cut water use by 20 percent and save 50 million gallons a day.

But the thermostat rule drew mostly quizzical looks from utilities officials, especially after Swiftmud regulators admitted they weren't certain how much water the rule might save or even how many buildings might be affected.

Two weeks into the restrictions, Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix said the state agency has not been tracking compliance with that particular rule.

"The enforcement reports from the local governments only specify how many warnings and citations they have issued," she said in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "However, no one has said they are not enforcing the cooling towers."

Well, they're not.

St. Petersburg and Pinellas County utility officials say they are too busy nailing illegal lawn-sprinkling to run around with a thermometer checking building temperatures. Hillsborough County officials say they aren't even sure which buildings to check.

Barton Weiss, director of strategic water management for Hillsborough County, said the county has requested a meeting with Swiftmud to clarify how they're expected to enforce the rule. "I don't think it's ever been a requirement before, so we need to have a discussion about it," he said. "There are no guidelines on how to enforce the temperature ban."

Elias Franco, distribution division manager for the Tampa water department, said the city is adjusting its own thermostats, and water cops can issue citations if they're in buildings whose managers don't follow the rule.

But like other governments, he said, Tampa's primary focus is on nabbing irrigation scofflaws, not those trickier temperature checks.

"We don't have the staff to walk into buildings and check thermostats," he said. "That's just reality."

Still, some building managers are trying to comply with the rules anyway. The Westfield Countryside shopping mall in Clearwater, for instance, has dialed its thermostat up.

Shoppers may or may not notice a difference, according to the company running it.

"The interior temperature of the center varies, based on a number of factors, including exterior climate condition," said Tara Martin, Westfield's regional marketing director. Asked if she herself had noticed the mall getting hotter, Martin said, "I can't answer that."

Not everybody has leaped to do Swiftmud's bidding. Hillsborough County's school system had already raised the temperature to 76 as a money-saving measure, said spokesman Steve Hegarty, "and we heard about it."

Raising the temperature two more degrees at the 39 schools that still have water-cooled air conditioning systems "would be tough." Therefore, Hegarty said, school officials have decided to put off making a decision on moving the thermostat dial to 78 until the next school year.

Which starts after the rainy season, when Swiftmud's restrictions are likely to be a subject fit for history class.

Tampa Bay officials don't monitor whether buildings with water cooling towers meet Swiftmud's 78-degree rule 04/19/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 8:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. CIA chief: Intel leaks on the rise amid 'worship' of leakers


    WASHINGTON — CIA director Mike Pompeo says he thinks disclosure of America's secret intelligence is on the rise, fueled partly by the "worship" of leakers like Edward Snowden.

    CIA director Mike Pompeo said the U.S. must redouble its efforts to stop information from leaking.
  2. ABC Racing kennel advances three into semifinals


    ST. PETERSBURG — The maiden voyage by Don Burk into the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby series — his first as the ABC Racing kennel owner — went as easy as ABC.

  3. Why Grenfell tower burned: Regulators put cost before safety


    The doorbell woke Yassin Adam just before 1 a.m. A neighbor was frantically alerting others on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower about a fire in his apartment. "My fridge blew up," the man shouted.

    At least 79 people were killed in the fire at the Grenfell Tower apartment building in London, and the toll is expected to rise.
  4. Bullpen melts down as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jacob Faria allowed his first two big-league home runs and was touched for a career-high three runs Saturday by the Orioles. Other than that, the rookie making his fourth major-league start did okay against the Baltimore bats.

    The bullpen, not so much.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Baltimore Orioles scored four runs during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) SPD118
  5. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101