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Thirsty lawns could get boost from Tampa's reclaimed water

TAMPA — City officials are asking contractors and landscapers to distribute recycled wastewater throughout Tampa.

With the state's toughest lawn-watering rules taking effect next week, giving away the reclaimed water could help keep some lawns green.

"We're hoping a lot of people will be saying, 'I have a business, I have a truck, and I'd be interesting in providing this service,' " Brad Baird, director of Tampa's water department, said Tuesday.

Contractors often haul reclaimed water to control dust on construction sites or establish new lawns. It typically costs about $3 to fill a 2,000-gallon truck, Baird said.

Contractors can get the highly treated wastewater for free from the city and sell it for whatever price they'd like, Baird said.

Joe Williams, president of Kimmins Contracting, said he would be willing to provide the service to big water customers or his own clients.

"The last time they took the watering restrictions down to nothing, we did that for our customers," he said. "We won't do it for anybody who calls and says, 'I want you to bring the water to my house.' "

At least half of the 80 million gallons of water used daily in Tampa ends up on lawns.

With rainfall spotty, demand for water high and the height of the dry season approaching, the City Council last week approved the region's most stringent watering restrictions, voting to ban sprinkler use on turf from April 3. That means lawns can be watered only by hand or micro-irrigation.

Customers connected to Tampa's reclaimed water lines face no watering restrictions. But the lines reach fewer than 9,000 of Tampa's 140,000 water customers, and only 3,100 have connected to the system.

Mayor Dick Greco launched the reclaimed water program, which has been plagued with problems including construction mishaps, leaks and clogs.

With few customers, it became a financial drain on the city, and Mayor Pam Iorio ditched expansion plans. She turned her focus to getting the water to big commercial and industrial users, such as Raymond James Stadium and International Plaza.

Last year, the city signed an agreement with the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority to take reclaimed water to Tampa International Airport. Construction of those pipes should begin this summer.

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

Thirsty lawns could get boost from Tampa's reclaimed water 03/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 6:51pm]
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