We need fixes for our water fix, Tampa Bay

Some elected officials around here actually managed to see the forest for the trees this week.

Or maybe that should be: managed to see beyond brown lawns to the real problem of a serious drought.

On Thursday, the Tampa City Council took the bold step of voting for an emergency ban on using lawn sprinklers as of April 3.

That's time enough for local folks to get used to the idea of complying with the tightest water restrictions around, and quick enough to get started on saving millions of gallons a week.

And good for them.

They voted for this knowing there could be constituent backlash from the green-lawn lobby, folks who do not get the true meaning of "extreme water shortage."

Who doesn't like green grass? But we've got a crisis going here.

"We've been spoiled in America," opined council member Charlie Miranda, famous (or infamous) for his contention that you can shower as effectively in four minutes as in 15. The Miranda Shower goes like this: water on, get wet, water off, suds up, water on. Rinse and do not repeat.

(Note to council: Brown grass will definitely be an easier sell.)

In other big news about water (or lack thereof), a front-page oh-my of a story this week by the Times' Drew Harwell unveiled some of the biggest water-guzzlers among us.

No. 1 turns out to be RV king and philanthropist Don Wallace, who used more than 6 million gallons last year at his sprawling waterfront Mediterranean manse on Bayshore Boulevard, known to some local wags as "La Quinta." To Wallace's credit, a family spokesman said he's working to find leaks and any other problems.

But hey, with 12 1/2 bathrooms, you're going to need some water, right?

Other signs we're serious: In St. Petersburg, new wee-hours patrols issued more water-related citations in three days than in six months. Pasco gave out 121 in a single weekend.

What we also need is a major change of mind-set at the grass roots level, pardon the pun.

What's causing that higher water bill — broken sprinkler heads, leaks, too-thirsty landscaping?

What creative ways can charities make money beyond water-wasting carwashes?

And is it possible we can get used to hand-watering rather than lying on the couch munching Cheetos while the automatic ultra-saturating sprinkler system kicks on outside?

We'll have to. Because we need fixes for the fix we're in.

The sight of sprinklers spraying needlessly in the rain — remember rain? — should more than dismay us. It should be the very picture of utter and unacceptable waste.

A postscript: Did you hear about how a town in California is dealing with grass going brown outside foreclosed homes? (And doesn't all news seem to lead back to the dismal economy sooner or later?)

In Perris, southeast of Los Angeles, city officials are using a contractor to apply an environmentally friendly green spray paint to touch up brown spots and help protect property values.

Silly? Sure.

But in the face of a problem, at least they're thinking about solutions and what's next — not just obliviously watering on.

We need fixes for our water fix, Tampa Bay 03/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 11:03pm]

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