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Watering restrictions relaxed thanks to summer rains and prediction of El Niño

Residents around the Tampa Bay area can go back to watering their lawns twice a week, the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District agreed Tuesday.

After hearing a report predicting a return of normal rainfall because an El Niño weather pattern is developing, the board of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud voted unanimously to lift the once-a-week restrictions it had imposed in the spring due to an ongoing drought.

The board also agreed to drop even tighter restrictions for Hernando and Citrus counties. However, since 2010 Hernando County has limited watering to once a week, and that county ordinance remains in effect.

Despite ending the restrictions, Swiftmud chairman H. Paul Senft said residents still should avoid watering when their lawns are already soaked: "Since we're receiving regular summer rainfall, residents should turn off their irrigation systems and only water when they need to."

The lawn and landscape watering schedule now is limited to a two-day-per-week schedule, and most watering may only occur before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Swiftmud officials encourage residents to check with their utilities for local restrictions before changing their irrigation timers.

The once-a-week watering restrictions were due to expire Tuesday, the same day Swiftmud's board was meeting in Brooksville. Swiftmud's staff told the board in a memo that renewing the restrictions might make sense, given that Tampa Bay Water is draining its 15.5 billion gallon reservoir this year to begin repairs designed to stop its walls from cracking.

However, after hearing that the rainfall from Tropical Storm Debby and other, smaller storms had boosted the region's rivers back to normal or close to it, the board elected to let the once-a-week restrictions expire.

The last time the Tampa Bay area had to switch to once-a-week watering, the restrictions lasted from January 2007 to June 2010.

Craig Pittman can be reached at

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Watering restrictions relaxed thanks to summer rains and prediction of El Niño 07/31/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 9:29pm]
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