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Water board member joins half-million gallon club

TAMPA — The Southwest Florida Water Management District has ordered homeowners across Tampa Bay to stop washing their cars, turn off their fountains and limit their lawn watering.

But at least one member of Swiftmud's Governing Board used nearly six times as much water last year as the average homeowner, utility records show. Business owner Jennifer Closshey's Plant City property drank up about 523,000 gallons, much of it outdoors, during a time when her organization was warning against overuse.

Closshey's home, at 2111 N Golfview Drive, takes up 4,200 square feet off Walden Lake, according to property records. Built in 1993, it features a pool and a spa. Reclaimed water is unavailable on her street.

Other Swiftmud board members stayed dry in comparison. In fact, Closshey's property used more than twice as much water as the homes of the other five Tampa Bay area members combined.

"We need to live to the highest standard available simply because we're asking others to do it," said Hugh Gramling, a Hillsborough board member who used 34,000 gallons in Plant City. "We need to set an example."

Closshey said a broken water main, her large yard's consumption and the relandscaping of a guest home next door contributed to her high use. Starting in May, she said, irrigation on her property will originate from a well.

"We have always been very careful to follow every guideline as far as time is concerned," Closshey said. "But when you have a big yard in an area, there's only so much you can do."

She said she strongly supports a water surcharge designed to discourage heavy users.

"I realize that we're one of the ones that are in that category," Closshey said. "Large users like us need to make a decision."

Last month, the Times reported that at least 35 homes across Tampa Bay used more than 1 million gallons of water last year. Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and professional wrestler John Cena were at the top of the list. LazyDays founder Don Wallace used more than 6 million gallons at his mansion on Bayshore Boulevard.

Closshey, 55, was appointed to the Governing Board in 2005, elected board secretary in 2008 and reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday. She works as the president of the consulting firm Ideas & Innovations Inc.

"Personally, Closshey lives by the belief that the quality of life is driven by water resources — lakes and rivers, wetlands and bays, the areas in our backyards, and the beaches and parks we visit," according to her biography on Swiftmud's Web site. "We have to protect water resources because water makes Florida unique."

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

What they used

Water usage incurred last year by the other Tampa Bay area members of Swiftmud's board:

• Hugh Gramling, appointed last year, used 34,000 gallons in Plant City.

• Maritza Rovira-Forino, appointed in 2006, used 67,000 gallons in Tampa.

• Todd Pressman, appointed in 2005, used 90,000 gallons in Oldsmar.

• Sallie Parks, appointed in 2006, used 23,000 gallons in Palm Harbor.

• Ronald Oakley, appointed in 2007, could not be found in Zephyrhills or Pasco county records. That may mean he uses a well.

Water board member joins half-million gallon club 04/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:37pm]
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