Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tougher water restrictions are likely on the way

State water officials are likely to impose the tightest watering restrictions in the region's history next week to cope with the Tampa Bay region's continuing water shortage.

Tampa Bay Water, the region's water wholesaler, sought the stepped-up restrictions a month ago, but the Southwest Florida Water Management District board rejected the request at the recommendation of its executive director, Dave Moore.

However, the drought continues, and in the past month, local officials have done more to crack down on those violating the current restrictions.

So now the staff of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud will recommend imposing the tougher restrictions, known as Phase 4, when the board meets Tuesday.

In an op-ed column running in today's St. Petersburg Times, Moore writes, "In light of the stepped-up conservation efforts by local governments, district staff believes these restrictions are now warranted and will be enforced in a meaningful way to reflect the actual conditions in the region."

Phase 4 restrictions would likely prohibit a variety of water uses, such as the operation of ornamental fountains and fundraising carwashes. Pressure washing would be limited to only cases involving a threat to health or safety, basically forbidding that practice.

Offices and stores in buildings that use water cooling towers for air conditioning are likely to be required to set their thermostats at 78 degrees or above.

And while lawn watering would still be allowed, the hours would probably be cut back.

That's still not as strict as what the Tampa City Council imposed last week: No lawn sprinkling at all, period.

As of Friday, Moore and his staff were still working out exactly what the Phase 4 restrictions will entail, Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix said.

"We're looking at reduced hours for irrigation and looking at nonessential water uses such as residential pressure washing, residential car washing and fountains," she said.

Moore's staff is also supposed to present a report on "economic impact findings" from the stepped-up restrictions, but Felix said that's still in the works.

"The situation that we face continues to be critical and any action taken by the regulatory agency can only help in managing water supply during this drought," Tampa Bay Water manager Gerald Seeber said upon learning Moore's recommendation.

Since last year, the Tampa Bay region has been under a version of the Phase 3 restrictions, which limits lawn sprinkling to once a week.

The region has been suffering from a drought for three years, and weather experts predict the dry spell is likely to continue until at least the start of the rainy season in June.

The underground aquifer is more than 2 feet below its normal level. Lakes throughout the Tampa Bay area are half a foot below where they were last year. The Hillsborough and Alafia rivers, which help provide water for the region, have dropped to just 2 percent of their normal flow.

The C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, which can hold 15 billion gallons, has been drained, and the desalination plant in Apollo Beach is struggling to produce more than 15 million gallons a day. Most of the water now is coming from Tampa Bay Water's 11 well fields, where an increase in pumping beyond the permitted limit is likely to further drain lakes, wetlands and private wells.

On Jan. 27 — a day when lawn watering was allowed throughout the area — people in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties used about 257 million gallons of water. By comparing that with a day when watering wasn't allowed, Tampa Bay Water officials figure 55 million gallons of water went to keep lawns green.

When the Swiftmud board considered the utility's request for Phase 4 restrictions last month, board members said they were concerned about the economic impact on agriculture and other businesses. Instead they encouraged local governments to step up enforcement of the Phase 3 limits.

>>Fast facts

What might be coming

Phase 4 watering restrictions are likely to include:

• Shorter hours for once-a-week lawn watering.

• Ban on use of ornamental fountains.

• Ban on residential pressure-washing.

• Ban on personal and fundraising carwashes.

• Buildings that use water cooling towers for air-conditioning required to set thermostat at 78 or higher.

Tougher water restrictions are likely on the way 03/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 28, 2009 1:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gradebook podcast: Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend on education reform


    Billy Townsend doesn't mince words. He considers Florida's education accountability system a fraud. He's likened the state Legislature to an abusive spouse. And he does it all in public, whether at the board table or on his blog. A former …

    Polk School Board member Billy Townsend
  2. Wesley Chapel man accused of possession of child porn


    WESLEY CHAPEL — A Wesley Chapel man was arrested Tuesday morning after authorities say he tried to buy child pornography from more than 10 users on a social networking app called MeetMe.

  3. There's a local memorial for Linkin Park's Chester Bennington this weekend

    Music & Concerts

    Because he sang so often, and so passionately, about the trials of pushing through pain and desperation, Linkin Park fans have taken the July 20 suicide of singer Chester Bennington really hard.

    Chester Bennington, left, performs during the MMRBQ Music Festival 2015 in Camden, N.J. Hundreds of Linkin Park fans are gathering to pay tribute to late singer weeks after his death. (Associated Press [2015])
  4. Where to pig out for National Bacon Lovers Day

    Food & Dining

    That's right: Sunday is the national day devoted to all things bacon, National Bacon Lovers Day. Which, really, isn't too different from the other 364 days of the year. But here's a little roundup of some special places to celebrate everyone's favorite meat snack (seriously, even vegans have a grudging respect …

    A creme-filled doughnut topped with maple frosting and bacon at Dough on MacDill Avenue in Tampa.
  5. White nationalist Richard Spencer speaks to select media in his office space on Monday in Alexandria, Virginia. [Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images]